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Dundee United have appointed Jim Goodwin to lead their cinch Premiership survival bid and the new manager’s first game in charge will be against former club Aberdeen this weekend.

The 41-year-old Irishman emerged as the leading contender to succeed Liam Fox on Wednesday afternoon after Craig Levein, who had been touted for a potential return to Tannadice 12 years on from his first stint in charge, dropped out of the running.

Goodwin has agreed a deal to become the new United manager until the end of the season and he is confident he can keep them in the top flight despite the fact they currently languish four points adrift at the foot of the table.

“I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to manage this fabulous club which has a rich history and a passionate fanbase,” Goodwin told the United website as his appointment was confirmed on Wednesday evening.

“I recognise the job at hand – the sole aim for the remainder of the season is to maintain our Premiership status.

“I realise it is a huge task but I wouldn’t have taken the job on if I didn’t believe in the players, staff and my own abilities to be successful here.

“I’m incredibly excited to get started on my journey with Dundee United.”

Goodwin – who kicked off his managerial career with Alloa and then St Mirren – was appointed by Aberdeen last February but was sacked just over four weeks ago after a string of poor results since the World Cup break, culminating in a 1-0 Scottish Cup defeat by sixth-tier Darvel and a 6-0 defeat away to Hibernian in the Premiership.

However, he has been identified as the most suitable candidate by United owner Mark Ogren to replace Fox, who was axed on Sunday after six defeats on the spin. Goodwin’s first game in charge will be at home to the Dons – whom he led for 11 months – this Saturday.

“Alongside the other board members, Scott Ogren and Jimmy Fyffe, I wholeheartedly have confidence that Jim is the man to take us into this vital part of the season,” said Ogren.

“As soon as we spoke, I sensed his desire and hunger to succeed for the benefit of Dundee United. His knowledge of the league and the opposition was an important factor and he really impressed the board with his passion for the challenge we face.

“As a club, I would ask everyone of a tangerine persuasion to unite behind his leadership of the squad as we look to end the season positively.”

Goodwin becomes United’s third manager of a turbulent season, with Fox having taken over from Jack Ross, who was sacked at the end of August after just nine games in charge in all competitions.

Sporting director Tony Asghar followed Fox out the door this week after coming under fire from supporters in recent months as a result of the team’s malaise this term.