On a perfect summer’s day for football the attention might have been on the empty stands. But it was Motherwell who were left empty handed as United nicked all three points.
It was a double whammy from former Fir Park favourite Mark Reynolds who marshalled a disciplined Tannadice team, before scoring the only goal at the start of the second half.
And although there were some positives from the ‘Well performance, it was largely from back to middle as once again the Fir Park men lacked a cutting edge to overcome an organised defence.
For the first home Premiership game of a strange new season, Stephen Robinson made changes to the line-up and the formation from the side at Dingwall on Monday evening.
Bevis Mugabi came in at the back, with Ricki Lamie moving to the left to cover for the injured Nathan McGinley.
Allan Campbell was restored to a three man midfield and after his impact from the bench against County, Sherwin Seedorf retained his place on the left wing. Jake Hastie, making his return to Fir Park, started on the right, with Christopher Long ploughing the middle channel on his own.
Amazingly, this was United’s first visit to Fir Park since March 2016, when goals from Marvin Johnson and Louis Moult left them on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat and a step nearer their four year exile from the top flight.
With United changing in the South Stand, they were led down the staircase and on to the pitch by their captain Reynolds.
For both teams and those inside Fir Park this was still a surreal experience. United kicked off facing the Davie Cooper Stand adorned with a couple of hundred cardboard cutouts of Well fans.
The first loud shout came from the United players after four minutes when Ian Harkes tumbled in the box under Declan Gallagher. But their penalty appeals were ignored by referee Steven McLean.
The first action that elicited any appreciation from the 200 or so sitting socially distanced and masked in the Phil O’Donnell stand came after 14 minutes. In a sweeping move started by Trevor Carson the ball was moved through Lamie, David Turnbull and Long before Seedorf’s cross was glanced wide of goal by Campbell.
While there was little between the side’s in terms of pressure on either goal, the United players held the upper hand in terms of noise level as they vocally encouraged to press the ‘Well players every time they had possession.
Seedorf was again the provider after 21 minutes when his pass found Long 12 yards in front of goal but as the striker was about to drive Jamie Robson stepped in with a last gasp block.
United’s best move and chance came in the 28th minute. But after being played in by Harkes, Luke Bolton should have at least tested Carson instead of driving the ball into the side netting.
There was plenty of energy and grunting in the opening half hour but the best sight from a Motherwell perspective was the amount of time David Turnbull had on the ball.
In the 35th minute the ‘Well midfielder was provided with his first shooting opportunity but from 35 yards his free kick was smothered low in front of his right hand post by Benjamin Siegrist.
Four minutes later, Turnbull’s quickly taken free kick released Long, who dragged the ball back across the box only to see his thumping drive rebound off Mark Connolly.
Hastie had been provided with plenty of the ball in the first 45 but got little joy out of the United defence and it was little surprise when the on loan winger was replaced with Tony Watt at the interval.
After taking 40 minutes to test the ‘Well ‘keeper, United looked much more positive from the start of the second half as a couple of attempts whizzed across Carson’s goal.
However, it was almost a perfect introduction for Watt when he stretched inside the six yard to connect with Lamie’s cross but could only direct the ball into Siegrist’s gloves.
The Tannadice men’s early threat was rewarded after 52 minutes when they nicked the only goal of the game.
Liam Smith’s inviting ball towards the six yard box looked to have gone begging until Reynolds sneaked in at the back to slip the ball past a helpless Carson.
That played perfectly into United’s game plan to sit tight and protect their lead.
‘Well spurned an early chance to level when Seedorf’s cross found Lamie who nodded the ball onto Long but from eight yards he steered his header over the bar. That was the last action for the former Blackpool striker as he was replaced by Jordan White, giving the tall hit man 35 minutes to impress on his home debut.
With 12 minutes remaining and still no signs of unlocking a tight and organised United, Jermaine Hylton and Harry Robinson were given the task of helping the home side take something from the game.
Instead it was the visitors who came within a few inches of wrapping up the points when Dillon Powers’ screamer from 18 yards got the merest of touches from Carson to send the ball crashing off the face of the crossbar.
Three minutes from time, ‘Well looked to have snatched the equaliser when White headed home Hylton’s cross. But the celebrations were short lived as the referee ruled the striker had been pushing in the six-yard box.
Despite finishing the game in the United box and forcing a string of corners, Motherwell drew a blank for the second consecutive game.