Mixu Paatelainen: Dundee United appoint Finn as new manager

Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson and manager Mixu Paatelainen
Chairman Stephen Thompson (left) says Mixu Paatelainen was the first and last candidate interviewed

Dundee United have appointed their former striker Mixu Paatelainen as head coach on a deal until June 2018.

The 48-year-old Finn played at Tannadice between 1987 and 1992.

He has managerial experience in Scotland with Cowdenbeath, Hibernian and Kilmarnock and succeeds Jackie McNamara in the United dugout.

"It feels wonderful," said Paatelainen. "Obviously this club is special to me - it was my first club abroad as a player. Fond memories."

United had approaches for St Johnstone's Tommy Wright and Inverness Caledonian Thistle's John Hughes rejected by their respective clubs.

And Tannadice chairman Stephen Thompson said of Paatelainen: "He was the first we interviewed and the last.

"All through that process, he's shown a great desire to be here. He's very driven but he's also got his coaching ideas, which is something that caught our imagination as well as a club. We'd like to welcome him here, obviously I'm wishing him all the best for the future.

"It's exciting times, it's a fresh start for the club. Mixu's record's very strong. His coaching credentials speak for themselves."

'A great challenge'

Dundee United players looking dejected
Dundee United are bottom of the Premiership after 10 games

Paatelainen left his role with Finland in June after more than four years in charge of the national side, a job that followed his spell at Killie.

The former Finland striker, who earned 70 international caps, has also had a spell in charge of TPS in his homeland.

McNamara departed Tannadice with his side second bottom of the Scottish Premiership and they have since slipped to the foot of the table.

Dundee United's Paul Paton

"When the vacancy came available, I felt that there might be a good opportunity for me," said Paatelainen, whose first game in charge will be at home to Hearts on Sunday.

"I must also say that, before that, I had my eyes elsewhere. But once this vacancy came about, I felt that would be a great challenge and wonderful to go back there, now in a management capacity, so I'm looking forward to it.

"The previous management team, I really want to pay compliment to them. I think they did a fantastic job for the club overall.

"They were successful, they guided the team to cup finals, they finished in the top six and then, as it happens so often in football for one reason or the other and not solely because of the management team, so many things affect your success. Things went a little bit wrong and there was a change."

Stephen Wright and Mixu Paatelainen
Paatelainen (right) playing for Dundee United against Aberdeen in 1991

During his 20-year playing career, Paatelainen also featured for Haka, Aberdeen, Bolton Wanderers, Wolves, Hibs, Strasbourg, St Johnstone, St Mirren and Cowdenbeath, where he started his managerial career and won the old Third Division title.

As well as league matches, Paatelainen also has a League Cup quarter-final at Hibs on the horizon after United beat Dunfermline in the last round - a game Paatelainen attended.

"It's a wonderful club, wonderful supporters," the Finn added.

"It's been a difficult time recently but that happens to many, many clubs. Unfortunately, Dundee United have had a sticky spell but it's our job now to work hard and change that.

"I think it's a technically very good squad. There's plenty, plenty good footballers in the side.

"I must say that I was a little bit surprised when Dundee United played against Dunfermline, the desire of Dunfermline players seemed to be bigger to win the match than Dundee United, especially first half.

"I think the quality came through in the end, Dundee United won the game. So often, that happens in the cup matches."

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