Celtic: Stuart Armstrong denies Dundee United exit request

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland
Celtic players Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven
Celtic's deadline day signings become acquainted with their new surroundings

New Celtic signing Stuart Armstrong says suggestions that he and Gary Mackay-Steven had expressed a desire to leave Dundee United are untrue.

United said in a statement they agreed to a £2m double deal because the players wanted to depart.

Armstrong, 22, was asked if that had been the case and replied: "No, I don't think so. It was up to the clubs.

"They agreed a fee and it provided an opportunity for us to come to speak to the people here."

The midfielder revealed it was a wrench to leave United, but he's excited at the prospect of playing for the Scottish champions.

"Yesterday was a bit of a long day," he said of transfer deadline day. "It worked out in the end. It was too good an opportunity to turn down.

"It was difficult leaving Dundee United. I've been there many years and met many great people and I owe a lot to [youth director] Stevie Campbell who brought me in and [manager] Jackie McNamara, who had really brought me on.

Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong
The pair played together at United for several seasons

"Celtic is a huge club and it's a great opportunity. It is an enormous club with enormous support and the stadium is wonderful, so it will be a big difference from what we are used to, but I am looking forward to it."

Armstrong admits he has "always had a notion of being in England" but explained: "When it came down to it, Celtic seemed quite keen and what's not to like about Celtic Football Club?

"You've got the lure of European football. You grow up watching European competitions and it's something we now have a chance to be part of and that's pretty special.

"I wouldn't say I'm going straight into the first team. Everyone's got to prove themselves and I'm here to work hard and to try to make a claim for a shirt on the park."

Currently doing a law degree in his spare time, Armstrong added: "I've got an essay due tomorrow morning - 2,000 words that I've not even started.

"I had a lot of free time in the afternoons and it was something I was interested in at school. It keeps your mind off other things at times."

Winger Mackay-Steven, 24, had already lined up a summer move to Celtic after signing a pre-contract, but is delighted to make the move early, even though he will now not feature in March's League Cup final.

Celtic players celebrating
Celtic reached the Scottish League Cup final by beating Rangers on Sunday

Armstrong and Mackay-Steven will be ineligible for Celtic's remaining domestic cup ties this season after playing for United.

"It will be a strange situation watching the final," said Mackay-Steven.

"[United beating Aberdeen in the semi-final] was a great high, getting to another cup final, and we were just looking forward to seeing who our opponents would be.

"It would have been a strange situation playing for Dundee United against my future employers, Celtic.

"To know I will not be involved at all is quite strange as well, but football is like that. Maybe it is a good thing that I won't have to face it.

"When a club like Celtic shows interest, your head is immediately turned - the facilities and stature of the club is world renowned.

"We have played here before as opposing players and it is an unbelievable arena. We want to kick on our careers and get Scotland caps.

"There's a massive [Europa League] game in a few weeks against Inter Milan and not much needs to be said about how exciting that is for everyone."

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