Dundee Utd V Hearts at Tannadice Park : Match Preview

19 February 2016
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Mixu Paatelainen accepts criticism is aimed at him

Dundee United manager Mixu Paatelainen admits he felt his chairman's damning statement was directed towards him as well as his players.

Stephen Thompson branded United's performance in a 3-0 home defeat by Motherwell on Tuesday "abysmal" and claimed the players had 13 games left to "redeem their professional reputations" after falling 13 points adrift at the foot of the Ladbrokes Premiership.

Ahead of Saturday's visit of Hearts, Paatelainen refused to state whether he agreed with Thompson's comments but stressed the Tannadice chairman was entitled to his opinion and that he and his squad were open to criticism.

"Obviously the chairman is the head of the club and is totally entitled to say whatever he wants, make a statement whenever he wants," he said.

"I don't think it's a surprise to anybody that he is not happy with the situation because none of us are. The players are not happy, the coaching staff are not happy, the supporters, the board. So it's not a real surprise.

"It's not for me to judge what the chairman says, at all. I just get on with the job. The players and coaching staff work together. We try to improve the team, performances and results."

For many, Thompson's statement undermined Paatelainen and the United boss was unaware of the content of Wednesday morning's update.

"He mentioned to me that he was going to put out a statement," he said. "I didn't know exactly the wording of the statement."

Dundee United midfielder Ryan Dow is available again to face Hearts.

Paatelainen confirmed Dow was rested for Tuesday night's defeat by Motherwell after recently making his comeback from a pelvic problem.

Defender Callum Morris (knee) is United's only absentee.

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson reckons Thompson has the right to say what he wants about his team.

But the Tynecastle manager does not believe the Tannadice chairman should even be considering axing manager Paatelainen despite the Taysiders' hopeless Premiership predicament.

Neilson has sympathy for his opposite number but defended Thompson's right to voice an opinion.

He told Press Association Sport: "I didn't read the statement but every chairman has the right to say what they want about their team. At the end of the day, they are the ones who put the money in.

"If he wants to say it that's up to him. Whether it gets a positive result or negative one, only time will tell.

"He obviously thinks it will provoke a response or he wouldn't have done it."

Neilson, however, believes the former Kilmarnock boss should be given time.

"I don't think Mixu is under pressure," he insisted.

"I would like to think he was brought in to stabilise the club first and foremost but also be given the time to build it.

"What can you do in four or five months? You get one window to work with when he didn't have a lot of money to spend.

"He spent the majority of the window trying to move people on and balance books. It's very difficult for a manager to do that."

Neilson, though, will hope his team can pile more misery on top of United as they look to bounce back from Tuesday's William Hill Scottish Cup exit to city rivals Hibs.

They return to league duty on Tayside and Neilson is already eyeing a race for second place with Aberdeen.

He said: "It's always frustrating when you lose a derby but we have to move on, accept the criticism and try to build from here."

Captain Alim Ozturk returns from suspension for and midfielder Prince Buaben could also feature after shaking off the minor knock which forced him to miss the defeat to Hibs.

Centre-back Blazej Augustyn is free to play, though, despite his Easter Road red card, with the defender's suspension carrying over to next season's cup campaign.

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