Manchester United are winning ugly. When Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, that was a trait that supporters rather liked. It led to titles.
Times have changed in the top flight, however. Louis van Gaal is at the helm and the Red Devils aren’t in the mix for the Premier League - despite reclaiming third in the table with a 3-1 win over Burnley tonight.
In many ways, this season was always about consolidation. David Moyes failed to live up to the weight of expectation at Old Trafford and paid the price with his job. Van Gaal has been drafted in to bring the good times back.
That is not happening - unless you class a Chris Smalling double as a good time.
Just days after being called a long-ball merchant, Van Gaal proceeded to watch his side toil against the Clarets. They had 11 shots on goal all night - four of those came from defenders. Two led to goals.
Smalling replaced the injured Phil Jones and scored within a minute of coming on. Danny Ings grabbed an equaliser on 12 minutes but Smalling put the hosts in-front on the stroke of half-time.
For large spells in the second period, Sean Dyche’s side were simply better than Manchester United. Once United grabbed the third goal - a Robin van Persie penalty after 82 minutes - they flexed their muscles.
But, in the 35 minute period before that goal, we saw the real problems that are affecting the Red Devils. A lack of creativity and chances for the forwards.
Wayne Rooney was again in a defensive midfield role in a 4-4-2 diamond formation. He did not have a shot…again.
Radamel Falcao played for 73 minutes before coming off for James Wilson. He did not have a shot.
Van Persie had one shot all game. He scored unchallenged from the spot.
Van Gaal has a very distinct way of playing football. It’s about winning - getting in-front and then not relinquishing a lead. That doesn’t always sit well with the ethos at Manchester United - especially when playing a comparative minnow like Burnley.
With the likes of Angel di Maria and Adnan Januzaj on the pitch, creating chances shouldn’t be a problem. If it is, then Ander Herrera and Juan Mata can come on and change things. But the fact neither Spaniard started this game tells you what you need to know about how the manager goes about his business.
The patience of Manchester United fans can only last for so long. If they keep winning, then the small section of boos which were in evidence at Old Trafford tonight will remain just that. But there is little evidence on show to suggest that this team will progress and beat the top teams in the Premier League.
It’s a night that belongs to Smalling, but it merely masks a sad reality for a once great football powerhouse.