Van Gaal's United continue to bore, says Richard Buxton
Van Gaal's job continues to hang in the balance as side struggle against minnows
MAN UNITED 1
(Wayne Rooney 90+3-pen)
SHEFFIELD UNITED 0
Perhaps it was no surprise that Manchester United only just made it into the draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup.
League One outfit Sheffield United failed to produce the giant-killing act of the season but, once again, what the hosts displayed at Old Trafford yesterday morning (Singapore time) was the Red Devils' version of death by football.
It has become the standard fare of Louis van Gaal's tenure, tedious football where his men pass the ball to death with little penetration in the final third.
The degeneration of United has been slow and painful and euphoria has been replaced by apathy at Old Trafford.
Where once air-punching delight reigned, shrugs are now more commonplace.
The Stretford End no longer pledges allegiance to its managerial incumbent. Instead, they openly defy him as unwavering support is substituted for sarcasm.
And who could blame them?
United, record 20-time league champions and 11-time FA Cup winners, have now failed to score in the first half of their previous 10 games on home soil. Nine of them have headed into the interval 0-0.
They failed to register a noteworthy shot at goal until Memphis Depay took aim after 65 minutes of play. Ironic scenes of elation played out in the stands.
Further celebrations ensued some four minutes later when Matteo Darmian went marginally better with his effort. At least the afflicted have retained a degree of the trademark Mancunian sense humour.
Van Gaal also seemingly believes in comic relief to lift the gloom, questioning after the game why the focus was on the dearth of chances United had created rather than those by Sheffield United, minnows by comparison.
Witnessing a full-strength United side taken right down to the wire by a team 48 places beneath them in the English footballing pyramid was further evidence of just how far they have continued to falter under the 64-year-old.
More than a place in the FA Cup's fourth round was at stake, with only one of their previous 37 outings against lower league opponents in the competition culminating in the ignominy of defeat.
It is hardly uncharted territory for van Gaal, having previously been held in the competition by Cambridge United from League Two last season.
Had it not been for Wayne Rooney's injury-time penalty, which was a fortuitous stroke, a repeat would have certainly followed.
Already incapable of breaking down their visitors from across the Pennines, van Gaal's in-game management has done little to help his case.
For supporters reared on expansive and winning football under Alex Ferguson, withdrawing Ander Herrera and Juan Mata would be considered in some quarters as an act of self-sabotage.
The pair struggled to make an impression, but they were not alone.
Ironically it was "Fergie time" which saved van Gaal once more.
Another match, and more criticism is hurled van Gaal's way.
Right now, only outright mutiny among his players would push him into endgame territory.
It could still feasibly come to that before the current English Premier League campaign takes its final bow on May 15.
The latest game just means the clock continues to tick along.
PAUL SCHOLES RANTS
“The players looked bored themselves. there’s no spirit, there’s nobody having a go at each other, there’s no smiling, there’s no entertainment. i think even van Gaal on the bench looks bored, but he’ll come out and say he’s happy. it wasn’t a great performance, will he (van Gaal) be happy with it? i think he probably will be. i think that’s the way he likes to play football.”
“I’d be depressed (after that game). it would take me two or three days to get over that performance. You’ve just seen 90 minutes of boring, defensive... i’ve tried to defend this team now for the last two or three weeks, it’s getting more and more difficult to do it because every time you come to old trafford, this is what you see; negative football.”
On TNP tweets
>Match of the Day host and former England captain Gary Lineker:
That's an almighty wriggle by Manchester United after a dreadful performance.
>TV and radio presenter Danny Baker:
I suggest every time Man Utd get televised everybody use the hashtag #TVPoison because thats what they are. Gormless excitement sponges.
>South African golfer Ernie Els:
Watching @ManUtd here in Jo'burg. LVG not looking great right now.
>Media personality Piers Morgan:
Van Gaal being booed off by United fans after winning. Extraordinary!
>Actor and United fan Will Mellor reacts to the first-half effort:
Boring!! Toothless !! Slow !! No shots on target in 45 mins!! But LVG will be happy, we passed the ball sideways 1000 times. #MUFC
>Former United and England striker Michael Owen:
Another embarrassing performance from Manchester United. This can't go on.
>Brother of Man United's assistant manager Ryan Giggs, Rhodri:
This philosophy is toilet, why don't you get your superstars in on a Monday and teach them how to cross a ball #imfreefridays.