West Ham versus Manchester United is one of those fixtures which regularly makes it onto the TV schedules, more due to the apparent promise of a good game in the abstract than anything else.
The May 2016 meeting is these clubs’ version of Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle - an exception rather than a rule, which makes the dismal matches either side feel all the more disappointing. And in the case of West Ham and Manchester United, it’s matches, plural.
Still, we don’t want to be too harsh on two teams who can regularly contribute to exciting games except when they’re playing each other. Other clubs can do ‘boring’ too, and here’s your proof. Presenting, in no particular order, six of the most uninspiring Premier League games of the recent past.
1. Manchester United 0-0 West Ham United, 2015
West Ham were a lot of fun in the 2015/16 season. Manchester United were, for the most part, not that. The exception to the first part of that sentence came when Dimitri Payet spent a few weeks out injured and Slaven Bilić’s response was to send people to sleep.
Attacking through Mauro Zárate, a man whose ‘best’ Premier League season saw him register four goals and one assist, tells you most of what you need to know about a game that featured a grand total of three shots on target.
Yes, that refers to the two teams put together.
2. Reading 0-0 Queens Park Rangers, 2013
Other games have had less in the way of goalmouth action, but this surely goes down as one of the more depressing top-flight games. Both teams needed a win to keep their survival hopes alive, and then this happened.
QPR’s relegation came off the back of a run of one goal in the last six games, and if anything this was one of their more accomplished all-round displays of a campaign in which their top scorer ended up with a grand total of six league goals. That probably tells its own story.
3. Cardiff City 0-0 Huddersfield Town, 2019
Huddersfield made it to the Premier League off the back of one of the dullest play-off finals in living memory, so why change the habit of a lifetime?
Both of these teams were relegated at the end of the 2018/19 season, which included another goalless draw in the reverse fixture, but the first one at least had a red card. When Cardiff fans look back on their relegation, some controversial late-season results will be high on their ‘what-if’ list, but a return of zero shots on target against a team coming off eight straight defeats should probably enter the conversation.
At least the Terriers tested Neil Etheridge... *checks notes*... twice.
4. Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Manchester City, 2007
Ah, yes. Sam Allardyce v Stuart Pearce. A visiting team which finished the season with 29 goals in 38 games. A ‘battle’ between Tal Ben-Haim and Bernardo Corradi. The two teams produced just one shot between them, and it was inconsequential enough not to even earn a mention on the BBC’s match report at the time.
"Wanderers dominated but could not break down City's defence despite firing a succession of high balls into the box," the report reads. Ah, so it was that kind of game. In mid-January, too, which adds an extra layer of misery to proceedings.
5. Arsenal 0-0 Birmingham City, 2004
Arsenal’s Invincibles had plenty of memorable results and performances in the 2003/04 season. This was not one of them.
No shots on target for either team throughout the first hour? Not great. ‘Martin Keown coming off the bench’ as a highlight of the game? Ditto. Sure, Arsenal’s unbeaten run was on the line, but this is a classic example of one of those late-season fixtures without a ton at stake, where the teams involved simply serve to remind you of that situation.
It’s league football’s best approximation of a dead rubber World Cup group game, except without anyone playing for a place in the next starting line-up.
6. West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Sunderland, 2006
Don’t let the scoreline deceive you. Yes, Sunderland scored, but that doesn’t mean they had a shot on target over the course of 90 minutes at the Hawthorns.
This was one of three (yes, three) wins for the Black Cats in the entirety of the 2005/06 season, and Steve Watson’s own goal meant he was only two goals shy of ending the campaign as Sunderland’s top scorer. Sunderland had plenty of similarly toothless displays that season, but this is one of the occasions when the opposition decided to join them.
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