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01st Apr 2017

Impotent Manchester United are Pulis’d as they pointlessly search for the ghost of Zlatan

Well and truly Pulis'd

Nooruddean Choudry

Well and truly Pulis’d.

Manchester United were pedestrian, predictable and very very deliberate at Old Trafford this afternoon.

Their passing was far too often sideways and safe, even when their forward players had stolen a precious half-yard and were begging for a quick ball. Instead, possession was exchanged very neatly and pointlessly from side-to-side in the middle of the park, in a manner that would make Louis van Gaal proud.

It was very much a game of attack versus defence, and it was to United’s embarrassment that they were unable to break through.

West Brom were everything that would you expect a Tony Pulis side to be. They were superbly well-drilled, organised and wasted experienced in the dark arts of time wasting, right from the very outset.

Of course, they had every right to be as awkward and game-ruining as possible – the onus was on the home side to show they were up to the challenge.

Alas once again, Jose Mourinho’s men have looked a gift horse in the mouth and mindlessly interrogated its dentures.

Missed opportunities are becoming a pattern in a season of maddening frustration for the Old Trafford faithful. They now expect their side to crumble. United were all huff and puff without any real penetration, like a lover inadvertently dry-humping the duvet for 90 minutes instead of the intended recipient.

None of the United’s forwards looked like breaking the deadlock. They always made the wrong decision – letting the ball roll across their body when before bumping into the opposition; performing an exquisite dummy to no one in particular. Indeed the ghost of Zlatan Ibrahimovic haunted the whole game. United players are seemingly so programmed to presenting the giant Swede with opportunities that they now try to find him when he’s not there.

On numerous occasions, red shirts were passing and crossing the ball into areas where they expected Zlatan to be, carving out umpteen opportunities for a spectre.

The modern phenomenon of wearing t-shirts of support for absent teammates wasn’t needed at Old Trafford, the 36-year-old was honoured with muscle memory assists. The likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford really should have mustered more creativity, ideas and chances between them.

On current form, Manchester United and Jose Mourinho don’t deserve to finish in the top four, and it’s looking increasingly likely that they won’t.

Everything is far too negative and careful.  The only players that showed any recklessness or adventure were the defensive duo of Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly. They may have been erratic in their play, but at least they kept the Old Trafford crowd from completely flat-lining.

There’s not much more to add. It ended 0-0, and it was always going to end 0-0. Tony Pulis did his job and stopped United; Mourinho presided over tepid dross.