There were ironic cheers from the home fans as the Dutchman's side took a woeful 69 minutes to register a shot on target against League One minnows Sheffield United
That it took a 93rd minute penalty said much about the display. Manchester United so very nearly failed again at Old Trafford on Saturday, and their 1-0 victory over Sheffield United will paper over only so many of the widening gaps on display.
“The minute that we don’t work harder than the other team, we’ll not be Manchester United,” Sir Alex Ferguson used to tell his players. Sheffield United worked far harder than the 20-time champions here, but they held out so well largely because they were simply not asked enough questions.
The ironic cheers and quasi-standing ovation which followed a speculative drive from Memphis Depay midway through the second half said it all. Manchester United, once the club who would batter down the door of visiting teams until they could take no more, are now busy making third division defences look organised and disciplined. Even the David Moyes reign didn’t have lows quite like this.
Sheffield United are not even that good a League One outfit at this moment in time. Far from the side which had a season in the Premier League back in 2006-07, the Blades have looked as unconvincing this term as during any in their five-year spell so far in the third tier. Just last week they were beaten 3-2 at home to Peterborough United and looked leaky for long spells.
But here they had more than enough to keep their supposedly mighty hosts at bay. In fact, it took United 68 minutes to have a shot on target, and even then it was an easy take for Blades goalkeeper George Long. This was not the sort of test League One sides should expect when arriving at Old Trafford.
There was no movement, no energy, no real urgency from United until the final throes of the match. Wayne Rooney’s winner from the spot came after substitute Depay had run beyond John Brayford and instigated a sliding challenge from Dean Hammond. The Dutchman’s direct approach which created a number of mini-openings was the best thing about the afternoon.
They may have got the result in the end, but Manchester United are simply a shadow of the team they once were.