Manchester United gave yet another lacklustre display at Old Trafford but produced an injury-time winner from a Wayne Rooney penalty against Sheffield United to prevail 1-0 in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
United's troubles in front of goal continued as they rarely created clear-cut chances and chased the win late into the game.
The Theatre of Dreams faithful gave moans of discontent through the contest, as the club's form continues to confound worried supporters.
United manager Louis van Gaal gave appearances to Matteo Darmian, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Marouane Fellaini, who started ahead of Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Morgan Schneiderlin.
Blades boss Nigel Adkins named an unchanged side to the one that started the defeat at home to Peterborough United, with striker Billy Sharp and Republic of Ireland international Conor Sammon spearheading the attack.
The first 30 minutes were typical of the Red Devils' recent performances, attaining plenty of possession with little threat or verve.
Wayne Rooney managed to skip past goalkeeper George Long, but the England captain hesitated when he should have pulled the trigger and allowed the chance to go begging.
Football writer and United fan Liam Canning gave a comprehensive reaction to the hosts' turgid display in the first half:
United break to the opponent's box, freeze up as they don't know what to do and then lose possession. Every single time.— Liam (@OffsideLiam) January 9, 2016
This is so depressing. Even the commentators are struggling to give life into this game.— Liam (@OffsideLiam) January 9, 2016
The tension from the crowd was palpable as they watched their team go through the motions, rarely hurting the visitors from the lower divisions.
The Blades went close as they countered against their hosts, with Sammon testing David De Gea in the United goal with a fierce half-volley.
Van Gaal's team had no intention of pressurising the Sheffield side before the half-time whistle, giving their opponents too much time to defend the space in front of them.
The Independent's Mark Ogden gave his assessments as to why United are currently in flux:
Regular problem going forward for United is having four midfielders who only pass the ball sideways. No forward runners.— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) January 9, 2016
Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News firmly pointed the finger at LvG:
Van Gaal must understand why the fans are getting frustrated. League One side at home, two deep midfielders, 75% possession, one shot.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) January 9, 2016
Van Gaal and Ryan Giggs looked downbeat as the referee blew for half-time, and United trudged from the pitch like a team with no motivation or creativity.
The lack of noise from the home fans was damning as the players exited the field, as Blades supporters applauded.
Dawson highlighted a shocking statistic, as the glory days look well behind United:
United still without a first half goal at home since September 30. Been unlucky in some of those games but not today. As bad as it's been.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) January 9, 2016
United looked more positive in the second-half, as the south Yorkshire team sat deep and allowed them to advance.
However, again, the Red Devils had few ideas with the ball at feet, with the likes of Juan Mata and Ander Herrera looking constricted in Van Gaal's system.
Marouane Fellaini planted himself in the box and made a more prominent target for United, but the hosts failed to deconstruct their opponents.
Bleacher Report UK felt sympathy for match-going United fans:
United picked up the pace on the hour-mark, but the improved territory for the Old Trafford team wasn't utilised fully. The Sheffield United fans sang in defiance as their team defended and the Red Devils advanced further forward.
Van Gaal rolled the dice, throwing on substitutes Memphis Depay and Jesse Lingard for the below-par Mata and Herrera, giving United more pace in the attacking positions.
Writer Alex Hess was not impressed as the minutes passed, with United fans providing sarcastic cheering as the team created a rare chance through Memphis:
My eyes! The only possible redeeming feature to this game will be a late Sheffield United winner. And *even then* it's a close-run thing.— Alex Hess (@A_Hess) January 9, 2016
That said, openly mocking your own failing players isn't likely to help things.— Alex Hess (@A_Hess) January 9, 2016
Dawson also highlighted the Old Trafford faithful's feelings:
Memphis shoots wide from outside the box. United fans ironically clap and cheer like he's scored. Making their feelings known. Still 0-0.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) January 9, 2016
The hosts looked desperate in the closing stages as the Theatre of Dreams became a vacuum of dissatisfaction and disappointment.
Memphis and Lingard looked lively on the ball as they tried to drive forward, but a lack of chemistry was present across the whole of LvG's selection.
With the game in its final moments, Memphis burst past his marker into the area and was caught by Dean Hammond on his shin, prompting the official to award a penalty in stoppage time.
Rooney stepped up to take the spot-kick, and he convincingly buried his shot, lashing into the bottom left-hand corner.
The late 1-0 win flattered United, who struggled throughout the 90 minutes. Once again, the team looked clueless in Van Gaal's formation, but the addition of Memphis in the second-half changed the match.
United continue to look a shadow of the football team they once were, but the FA Cup could offer LvG solitude in a difficult season for the Dutchman.
Van Gaal admitted his side were not at their best against Sheffield United, but was stubborn in his overall assessment, satisfied with the slim victory—as quoted by Bleacher Report's Paul Ansorge:
The draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup takes place on Monday evening, live on BBC One at 7.15 p.m.