Dundee United: Stephen Thompson in duo sale admission

By Jim SpenceBBC Sport
Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven
Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven have already made a big impact at Celtic

Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson has admitted selling Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong was wrong from a football perspective.

The duo joined Celtic in January.

Thompson told BBC Scotland: "There's no doubt from a footballing point of view it wasn't the right thing to do, but we still believe it was the right thing from a financial point of view.

"It's been hard for a lot of people to take that but we've got to run the club as a board."

Mackay-Steven had already agreed a pre-contract deal to join Celtic in the summer, and he and Armstrong left Tannadice for a combined fee of about £2m.

Since their departures, United have suffered a form slump, but Thompson said: "We have legal obligations and we still believe it was the right thing from a financial point of view.

"You can never look back and regret things in life, you make decisions at the time that you think are the right decisions and you have to stick to that.

"It was the right decision for the club, we discussed it at length with the board, we discussed it with Jackie [McNamara, manager] as well at length.

"It's done now and perhaps if they'd gone down to England it would be looked at differently.

Jackie McNamara and Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson insists there is no problem between him and Dundee United boss Jackie McNamara

"There was no other interest in either player. You always want more money, of course you do, but I think any other club in Scotland would have done the same thing.

"I've always said I want us to be debt free but I also want us to be competing on the park. We did a lot in the transfer window, we've spent more money this year on our playing budget than we did last year, and we've brought players in to try to strengthen the team.

"The fans care about winning games and I can understand their frustration at this moment in time."

In recent days, there have been suggestions on social media of a rift between Thompson and McNamara, but the Tannadice chief dismissed that as "complete rubbish".

"Jackie and I have a great working relationship, we discuss absolutely everything that happens at the club," Thompson added.

"I know we haven't had some results on the park recently but that's football. We're in a quarter-final this weekend, we have a cup final coming up and we're sitting fourth in the league, so I think it's probably on the back of what happened at the end of the transfer window."

United have not won in four games and now face three matches on the spin against league-leaders Celtic.

The first is Sunday's Scottish Cup quarter-final and assistant manager Simon Donnelly believes that is the perfect opportunity to try to get back on track.

"It's an ideal week and an ideal game on Sunday to go and turn that all around," he said.

"It's a tall order against the champions of Scotland, they've hit a bit of form of late and it's going to be difficult. We're going to have to be at our best.

"We've showed in the past, as recently as the last game against Celtic at Tannadice, that if we perform and play well we're capable of getting a result."