Expect more boredom as United stick with van Gaal, says Neil Humphreys
More boring football awaits as United refuse to sack van Gaal the anaesthetist
Louis van Gaal turned up for training with the hangdog look of a condemned man.
Reporters waited at Manchester United's Carrington complex, convinced that Ed Woodward was sitting in a darkened office, sharpening a blade.
But the club's cartoonish executive vice-chairman still gives the impression that he shouldn't be trusted with kiddy scissors in an arts and craft class.
He didn't sack van Gaal yesterday and the Dutchman didn't offer his resignation. The pair didn't meet. They weren't even in the same city.
Woodward was reportedly in United's London office and van Gaal was on the training ground, teaching his cadavers how to treat rigor mortis on matchdays.
So van Gaal lives to fight another dull, goalless draw.
United's disillusioned followers should probably lie down and let the Dutch anaesthetist count backwards from 10. Sleep for the rest of the season and wake when the tedious era is over.
Van Gaal is going nowhere. Not now.
The Southampton defeat had to be the moment for the United board to intervene.
That loss tipped the club from being merely poor to a parody, as if a local pub side had donned United jerseys and been ordered to run around aimlessly in their own half until the Saints scored.
But Woodward seems to be once bitten, twice shy.
He hired David Moyes, at the behest of Sir Alex Ferguson, and then baulked at giving the Scotsman the funds that were clearly needed to sustain an ageing side.
Both decisions backfired and he has appeared utterly determined to make amends ever since.
After the Moyes debacle, which now looks like a storm in a teacup when compared to the hurricane that follows the Dutchman, no one was left in any doubt of who was to blame.
STAND BY HIS MAN
Moyes was Ferguson's choice. The board bowed to his jaundiced thinking that a mini-me version of himself was required.
But Ferguson was wrong. As a result, his opinion is still respected, but not critical when it comes to hiring and firing.
So van Gaal was Woodward's choice. He must now stand by his man.
He was ridiculed for his mishandling of Moyes' purse strings, so he went to the opposite extreme with van Gaal.
He gave the domineering manager the access codes to the bank vault and let him come and go as he pleased.
The Dutchman made one reckless buy after another and then coerced stunned mavericks into tactical straitjackets. Those who complied lost their creativity. Those who didn't were sold.
Despite spending close to half a billion dollars, van Gaal has picked up just 37 points from 23 games, United's lowest tally in the Premier League era.
The buck stops solely with Woodward's man. There is no-one else to blame in United's crafty game of thrones.
In his latest autobiography, Ferguson claimed neither he nor fellow director Sir Bobby Charlton was involved in the decision to hire van Gaal.
If Ferguson once had Moyes' blood on his hands, they are wiped clean now.
Woodward has little option but to see his choice through to the bitter end. And it will be bitter, not to mention boring.
A recent five-match unbeaten run bought time for both van Gaal and Woodward, but no respect.
Each sterile United performance, both individually and collectively, moves the masses towards mutiny. The vitriolic booing after the Southampton defeat was unprecedented.
But the supporters' frustrations are less important than Woodward's ongoing dilemma. He cannot sack van Gaal and lose any more face, particularly when there is a paucity of potential replacements.
Jose Mourinho's application was rejected three years ago for reasons that were further validated by his second Chelsea sacking. He's a terrific quick-fix that soon turns toxic.
Pep Guardiola will probably take the easier Manchester option at City and, even then, not until the end of the season.
And Ferguson has made it clear that he has no intention of following Sir Matt Busby and returning to prop up the club and risk tarnishing his legacy.
So United are lumbered with a manager that nobody really wants, not the supporters, the players, other club directors or even the other coaches, judging by Ryan Giggs' haunted look in the dugout.
No one at Old Trafford seriously wants to endure the turgid displays, apart from masochists and perhaps the only man who matters - Ed Woodward.
Only outsiders can force the issue now.
If Derby County pull off the unthinkable on Friday and knock United out of the FA Cup, then van Gaal might do Woodward's job for him.
As always, he'll take matters into his own hands. He'll fall on his sword.