LEE MCCULLOCH knew that Robbie Nielson would be a success at Dundee United, as he immediately saw similarities between him and his old Rangers manager Walter Smith upon his arrival as a coach at Tannadice.

McCulloch is rekindling his love for the game under Neilson at United as they streak ahead at the top of the Championship, and he puts the credit for their resurgence squarely down to the influence of Neilson at the club.

He qualifies the comparison by saying that Neilson has a long way to go to match the achievements of his old Ibrox boss, but he does see similar traits that mark him out for success.

“There are a hell of a lot of similarities there – and they’re massive,” McCulloch said.

“Listen, I’m not putting them in the same bracket, but I see flashes in the way that they work, the way that they speak to players individually and as a group.

“His man-management [too]. I look at Walter Smith and how he was with players. Walter’s man management and tactically [he] was right up there and Robbie is similar. He’s got players running through brick walls for him.

“That’s the environment and culture we’ve created. The young boys watch videos of games and self-analyse. It’s just different things he’s introduced to the club and pleased to work with.

“Add to that the respect the players clearly have for him – and that goes for the coaching staff, too. He’s transformed a club which hadn’t been punching its weight into one with a 15-point gap at the top of the Championship and ready to go back to the division we all know they belong in.

“Working with Robbie is brilliant. He’s a top manager, a real leader in the dressing room and club.

“I believe he’s one of the top managers in Scotland.”

Getting it right at Dundee United has proved an elusive achievement for the previous incumbents in the dugout since their relegation from the Premiership in 2016, but McCulloch explained what Neilson has done both on and off the pitch to put them back on the path to the top-flight.

“Just by recruiting the right people,” he said. “The right players, and learning from his MK Dons experience. By how hard working he is.

“The Dundee United players weren’t used to working so hard and that’s how we’ve had some of our results this season. Just fine detail and leadership, I believe.”

Meanwhile, McCulloch was delighted to see his old team conquering Celtic in the latest Old Firm fixture, which he says will be a massive boost to their title credentials.

But he believes that another man cut from similar cloth to his former manager Smith, Steven Gerrard, won’t be letting his players get carried away.

He said: “They should take confidence from that win at Parkhead, which took that monkey off their backs, particularly after the Betfred Cup final defeat a few weeks earlier.

“Rangers won’t be complacent, and Celtic have taken a blow, but they’ll want to show everyone that they’re still the champions. It’ll be a great run-in.”

*Lee McCulloch was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.