Manchester United have scraped past Sheffield United 1-0 in the FA Cup this evening thanks to Wayne Rooney’s dramatic late penalty.
Man United had their opponents pinned back in their half during the opening stages but they found opportunities hard to come by. Instead, it was Sheffield United’s Conor Sammon who had the game’s first chance when he took a long ball down before stinging the hands of David de Gea. Rooney then had a couple half-chances but there wasn’t too much else to shout about as the two teams went in goalless at the break.
It was more of the same from United in the second half as they laboured in their attacking play. Substitute Memphis Depay had an effort from the outside of the box but it went wide. Anthony Martial then found himself in space inside the Sheffield United box but he snapped at his shot and it was blocked. It looked for all the world that Sheffield United would earn themselves a replay but Rooney slammed home from the spot after Memphis was brought down in the box.
With United fielding such a strong team and facing lower league opposition, you would have liked them to fly out of the traps.
Unfortunately, in the first half, van Gaal’s side fell into the familiar routine that they have for the majority of the campaign – that is, keeping the ball, playing it safe and not creating many chances as a result. The crowd were willing their team to get them off their seats but United seemed incapable of producing something from nothing. There was barely a chance of note as United made it ten consecutive home games without scoring in the first half.
Borthwick-Jackson was handed another opportunity at left-back by van Gaal and the youngster wasn’t afraid to get forward during the first half at Old Trafford.
The 18-year-old was strong and confident on the ball and he showed a maturity which belied his years. In a similar way to Anthony Martial, Borthwick-Jackson doesn’t seem fazed with being thrown in at the deep end despite his age.
On the other flank, Darmian looked more like the player that he did in the early part of the campaign, whipping in several crosses and generally making himself a nuisance down the right hand side of the pitch.
Sheffield United’s plan to pack the box made United’s wing-backs an important tool and Darmian was there more often than not to provide an outlet.
Laboured second half
Frustration within Old Trafford grew more and more during the second period as United were predictably meek going forward once again. Rooney’s winner simply papered up the cracks.
It’s easy to understand why fans were so unhappy with what they were seeing – at home, against a League One side, United barely had a shot on goal. When they did, Old Trafford erupted into applause, which tells you everything you need to know. Van Gaal’s side have become painful to watch and that is inexcusable.
How is van Gaal still in a job?
The optimism that United had built up for themselves in recent displays against Swansea and Chelsea completely disappeared against Sheffield United despite Rooney’s late strike. Memphis did well to get into the box but United only won the game due to Sheffield United’s recklessness.
Despite the result, United were awful from an attacking point of view and it is exactly what supporters have come to expect over the course of the campaign. Van Gaal survived the recent eight game winless streak, and got the result today, but how much longer is he going to last?