Dillon: Terrors have exceeded expectations
Full-back Sean Dillon believes Dundee United have surprised most people with their achievements already this season, though he admits the campaign will not be complete until they return to Tannadice with the Scottish Cup this weekend.
The loss of manager Craig Levein in December could have been a disaster for the Tangerines, with a morale-sapping 7-1 defeat to Rangers following his departure.
But they regrouped under Levein's number two, Peter Houston, who guided them to the coveted third spot in the Scottish Premier League - and guaranteed European football next term - with several games to spare.
United now face their final challenge of the campaign and an opportunity to claim the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1994 if they can overcome First Division side Ross County.
"I think if people are being honest, they didn't expect us to do what we have done,'' Dillon said. "The players deserve a lot of credit, as do the staff, and the manager deserves a huge amount of credit. We are delighted but it doesn't really mean anything until we come back to Tannadice with the cup.''
Regardless of whether they claim the trophy or not tomorrow, the 26-year-old admits United are likely to face a battle to keep the squad together over the summer and mount an even bigger challenge next term.
"That's a good point,'' he said. "I don't remember the last time a team finished third two seasons on the bounce. It's all well and good doing it one season and it is a great achievement. But it's maintaining that position and making sure you go on and continue to build for next season.
"But next season will have to be pushed aside until after Saturday and, please God, hopefully we have something to celebrate. We said at the start of the season that third place in the SPL was the aim and we've got that. A cup run is a bonus.
"For the last couple of seasons we have had a decent run in the Co-operative Insurance Cup but this is a bigger event and it would be great to cap the season off with some silverware.''
United were underdogs when they lost the Co-operative Insurance Cup final to Rangers two years ago and head into this clash as favourites, even though the Highlanders have overcome both Hibernian and Celtic on their way to Hampden.
Dillon said: "The whole 'favourites' thing and people expecting you to win - anything can happen in any game, never mind a cup final. We know we need to be at our best and then we will take it as it comes. The pressure that's there is the pressure you put on yourself to perform as well as you can.
"Once you do that, there is not much else you can do. We know it's going to be a tough game, we know they are a really good side. They showed that against Celtic and it was a well-deserved victory on the day. We know it's going to be tough - but we wouldn't expect anything less.''