Manchester United may be boring, but they’ll never be dull

Boring, boring, boring. That’s the view of Manchester United from where Paul Scholes sits, or something to that effect anyway.

And these days Scholes is often sitting on a TV pundits’ panel overlooking Manchester United games. So his view is probably even better than ours. And Paul, we’re seeing the same thing.

It’s not that United are boring, as such. It’s just that, well, on the pitch they’re boring. Which makes them very interesting for anyone who wants to write about them. Frankly, who doesn’t love reading about Louis Van Gaal? Who doesn’t love seeing him riled up? Who doesn’t love baiting the bear?

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Except, aren’t United on track in the Premier League? Ok, they drew against Palace in ultra-boring fashion at the weekend, but they’re still only four points behind the leading two. But perhaps that’s where any side including players like Mata, Herrera and Martial should sit, if not even higher up. United have a good team, it’s just that they’re not playing like a good team.

They have the best defensive record in the league, along with Arsenal. But when the teams you’re playing against are pretty much ok with a 0-0, and you don’t look like scoring, you’re going to have a fair few clean sheets. United’s problem is, of course, scoring goals. It’s the attacking record that sucks. They’ve managed 15 goals this season – the same amount as Norwich and two more than Sunderland, one fewer than Chelsea. Crisis clubs all.

Now, without wishing – and probably failing – to be too incendiary, if a manager like Sam Allardyce or Tony Pulis were the manager of Manchester United, where would they be? Probably in League 2 and battling it out against Crawley Town in the Johnstone’s Paint quarter finals. But possibly in a similar position. Having scored a small amount of goals, but have one of the best defensive records in the league.

These guys are seen as unsophisticated managers, and with good reason. But they know how to do the simple things in football. They know that overcomplicated is a sin, whereas doing the simple things well can put you in a good position. And getting the simple things right can give you a real platform to build upon.

So the first thing they’ll do when they come into a club is to sort out the defence. Once you stop conceding goals, you can try to add the goals later on. Once you start drawing 0-0 constantly, you can add the threat at the other end and start picking up 1-0 wins, and crucially points.

Louis Van Gaal is going in the opposite direction, however. His team dominate games, they pass it around and just dominate. But it’s a sterile domination. They do nothing with it. Like a lion prowling around in search of its prey. But they lack potency. They’re a lion who’s had a vasectomy. King of the jungle, but forced to enjoy the less obvious pleasures. Having no goals but 70% possession smacks of overcompensation….

When United welcome CSKA Moscow to Old Trafford tonight, they’ll face the same problem. A team who come to defend and maybe nick one on the break with some very good players who will pose United’s defence problems.

They’re top of their league, yet to lose domestically and hold a nine point lead at the top. They’re everything United wish they were, and they’re able to score goals.

It won’t be a boring night at Old Trafford, but that might be less because of what happens on the pitch and more about what happens off it. Everyone’s talking about United because they don’t give us enough to talk about on the pitch.

Tonight might be boring. But it won’t be dull.