In years past, one might have expected Celtic managers to ease off with a 4-0 half-time lead and an Old Firm game six days away.
It’s not Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic, which may well explain why, at the break, eager statisticians were already frantically jostling in the record books.
Five games unbeaten at the start of the season is nothing new, but Celtic not only opened up Dundee United in Sunday’s 9-0 humiliation, they gutted it.
In the process, they secured Celtic’s biggest away win in the league, breaking a record that had stood since 1988 when Mark McGhee and Frank McAvennie both scored hat-tricks in an 8-0 thrashing of Hamilton. .
“It’s part of the kind of football team we want to be,” Postecoglou said. “It’s not just the way we play, it’s our intention which is to keep going all the time, not to let the scoreboard or circumstances dictate how we proceed.”
Nine unanswered goals, seven scored from less than 12 meters. Kyogo Furuhashi and Liel Abada both scored hat tricks while Jota, Josip Juranovic and Carl Starfelt also got in on the act.
The defending champions are now back at the top of the Scottish Premiership table, but with Rangers just two points below.
“Apart from Kyogo’s second goal, the goals are the result of good work by other people,” said Postecoglou, whose side begin their League Cup defense in Ross County on Wednesday ahead of a tantalizing visit from the Rangers in the Premiership on Saturday.
The Celtic boss added: “It’s about setting our own standards and making sure we’re the best we can be every time we’re there.
“We’re not going to measure our progress or success because we don’t know what the end point is, we don’t want to put a limit on the team we want to be.
“We knew Dundee United were going through a tough time. They’re probably a bit vulnerable today and we got over them early which allowed us to play our football.”
‘Humiliating’ but Ross wants to ‘fix’
On the receiving end of Celtic’s onslaught was a United side who have now conceded 23 goals in four games. Eight of them came in the final hour against Celtic.
Jack Ross has lost five in the rotation as United manager and is already under scrutiny after just 69 days in charge, with the side two points adrift at the bottom.
“Humiliating and embarrassing” is how the 46-year-old summed up his emotions after United’s heaviest home defeat.
“We offer [the supporters] apologies because it is far from enough. You should not concede this number of goals at any level of football, regardless of the level of the opponent.
“We are continually looking for answers but at the moment we haven’t found them. I will take my share of criticism and the players must take responsibility.
“And because of the embarrassment and humiliation I feel right now, I absolutely want to address it.”
“I don’t know how they come back from it” – analysis
Incredibly, Celtic’s second goal didn’t come until the 40th minute. United had held up pretty well, despite playing most of the first half on the back foot.
However, the last 10 minutes of the first half and the entire 45 minutes will go down as one of the worst hours in United history.
Captain Ryan Edwards insists the players must take most of the blame. “We are 100% [behind the manager]. We know as players we let him down, we let ourselves down, the fans, the staff and our families,” he said.
“I don’t think we as players could argue if we lost our positions at the club. There shouldn’t be any fingers pointed at the staff or the board.”
While Ross is determined to be allowed to bail United out of their current mess, pressure has intensified on the manager just days after sporting director Tony Asghar said his job was not at risk.
“Honestly, I don’t know how United or Jack Ross came back from this,” former United striker Steven Thompson told BBC Sportsound. “I think he is in serious danger of losing his job.
Former United midfielder Craig Easton added: “United were mentally scarred by the 7-0 loss to AZ Alkmaar. What does it do to them now? It’s worse and scary , is that it could have been much more.”
‘No limits’ for relentless Celtic in United rout