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LVG frustrated after Manchester United’s drab FA Cup win

Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United managed just two shots on target against League One Sheffield Utd. Photo courtesy: Goal.com
Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United managed just two shots on target against League One Sheffield Utd. Photo courtesy: Goal.com
Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United managed just two shots on target against League One Sheffield Utd. Photo courtesy: Goal.com

The latest gag is that you do not have to bother turning up before half-time because you will not miss anything. It is now 10 consecutive home games that Manchester United have failed to score before the break.

When they finally had a threatening shot in the 67th minute – from substitute Memphis Depay – it was greeted with ironic cheers by their own fans. And by the time Wayne Rooney got them out of jail with his added-time penalty, many supporters had given up on seeing a goal and had left for home.

Even United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, Van Gaal’s biggest supporter, puffed out his cheeks in sheer relief at the final whistle.

Coming in the week when Herbert Hainer – chief executive of United’s biggest sponsors Adidas – had declared the “current style of play is not exactly what we want to see” this tedious performance was ill-timed to say the least.

After making some positive steps forward in the previous home games against Chelsea and Swansea, it was a big step back.

Sheffield United were well organised and defended well but two shots on target against a League One team is, as Paul Scholes said, “simply not good enough”. In his role as a TV pundit, Scholes has an almost weekly rant at his former club but it clearly hurts him and he is only echoing what most of the fans feel.

The so-called Theatre of Dreams has now become the Theatre of Screams – of utter frustration at almost total possession but so little penetration. The worry for United is that if it does not change, will fans be in a hurry to snap up season tickets next season?

This was the 47th consecutive FA Cup tie they have had screened live – stretching back to January 2004 – but will the TV companies be quite so keen to pick their games if the entertainment does not improve? On top of that, if they fail to get into the Champions League next season there are considerable penalty clauses in the £75million-a-season Adidas contract.

Even Van Gaal looked bored and for once criticised his team, saying they lacked width and passed the ball too slowly. “It is not only frustrating for the fans, “ he said. “The players and staff are frustrated as well.”

In the end it took Dean Hammond’s needless sliding challenge on Depay and Rooney’s nerveless conversion of the spot kick, to spare United’s blushes just as the Blades looked to have earned a lucrative replay at Bramall Lane.

Boss Nigel Adkins said: “There is no need for Dean to go to ground, there was a couple of players around him. It was just honest endeavour to block the situation.”

At least the omens bode well for United. The last three times they have beaten the Blades in the FA Cup – 1990, ‘94 and ‘95 – they have gone on to reach Wembley. But they know they are going to have to play far better than this to do it this time around.

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