Jesse Lingard’s late effort onto the crossbar was the closest either side went to scoring in a tight Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday.
United and City had the chance to make a real statement about their title chances by registering a big win, but neither was up to the challenge as the two teams played out just the third goalless draw between them in Premier League history.
Wilfried Bony was unable to fill the considerable void left by Sergio Aguero’s absence while Yaya Toure had a day to forget playing in the number 10 role where the injured David Silva usually causes so much damage.
United fared no better. It was only in the last 10 minutes that they started to turn the screw on their rivals.
Wayne Rooney failed to mark his first match as a thirtysomething with a goal. The United captain, who needed his head stapling together after a clash of heads with Vincent Kompany, was anonymous throughout.
Joe Hart saved from Chris Smalling at the death after Lingaard had flicked a cross from Anthony Martial – one of the game’s few attacking sparks –against the woodwork, but otherwise the hosts did not trouble the City goalkeeper.
A wall of noise hit the players as they emerged from the tunnel, but the atmosphere soon dampened down as a dull first half ensued.
Rooney did his best to ignite proceedings, hurtling at the away defence, and Toure was lucky to escape a booking after taking down the United skipper near the halfway line.
Next, Juan Mata appealed for a penalty after the ball brushed Fernandinho’s arm, but Mark Clattenburg waved play on.
The Brazilian entered the book for a clumsy challenge on Martial, who was United’s only threat in the opening half. He won another free-kick afterwards after bamboozling Bacary Sagna, but United wasted it.
Toure wasted two half-decent chances before the break, but otherwise City offered little. Marcos Rojo was doing an excellent job keeping Kevin De Bruyne quiet and Raheem Sterling was not in the game.
Sterling paid the price for his poor showing as Jesus Navas came on for the winger just after the break.
Lingard and Marouane Fellaini came on for United, while City substituted a disappointed Toure for Martin Demichelis, but nothing changed on the pitch. Neither team looked like breaking the deadlock.
There was a moment of panic in the away defence when Mata broke through, but Hart rushed off his line to deny the Spaniard.
Lingard went closest to winning the game with his first United goal five minutes from time. Martial took the ball off Navas and chipped a delightful ball into the box. The Warrington winger lifted the ball over Hart, but the ball struck the bar and bounced out to safety.
The England goalkeeper then denied Smalling with a fine save down to his left with two minutes to go.