Difficult December will map out Paatelainen's plan to save Dundee Utd
Signs of encouragement for Tannadice coach despite St Johnstone loss.
You know what they say about rainbows; you cant have them unless you put up with some rain, and for Dundee United fans it has certainly been a long, wet season so far.
In saying that, though, there have been glimmers of hope in the distance as they start to fight their way out of the painstakingly bleak spell which has left them propping up the Scottish Premiership table.
Saturday's 2-1 defeat to St Johnstone was not just another poor result against their bogey team, it was another occasion where the Saints came from behind to take all three points. Memories of Jackie McNamara's last game in charge, just eight weeks ago, came flooding back too soon for the Arabs.
With Partick Thistle's win against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, United were left six points adrift and gearing up for a series of crunch fixtures in December. Kilmarnock, Partick Thistle and Motherwell, the three teams directly above them in the table, will come up against Mixu Paatelainen's side before the New Year bells.
It's a string of games that could make or break their season and also map out what the new manager has to do during the January transfer window.
There were of course some positives to take out of Saturday as the Tayside club produced an exciting first-half performance and several chances on target, along with a new-look formation which they had long been crying out for during McNamara's tenure.
They're still having problems defending set pieces though, and are struggling to replicate their good 45-minute spell over the full 90.
Paatelainen opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation at the weekend but still looked light in midfield. That could change when the likes of Chris Erskine and Paul Paton return from injury but it also in turn showed how vital John Rankin has been this season.
Playing in a more attacking role than he has been used to recently, the 32-year-old was a stand-out yet again, causing St Johnstone problems. With his contract up this summer, tying him to new deal should be a priority in a side lacking leaders and experience.
The club are still waiting to complete the signing of Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, but Paatelainen might be better strengthening from the front first.
The fans were left infuriated by his failure to introduce a striker when they were chasing the game, asking questions of whether Simon Murray has failed to impress in training. Mario Bilate has already departed the club, Darko Bodul has been given permission to follow while Adam Taggart didnt even make the bench on Saturday.
Florent Sinama Pongolle has been on trial at Tannadice, but whether it's him or another goalscorer who puts pen to paper, it shows support and back-up for Billy McKay is high on the manager's January shopping list.