Premier League - Manchester derby ends goalless
Wed, 10 Nov 21:58:00 2010
Neither side showed anything like enough attacking intent, and although United were marginally the better side, the match suffered from the fact that both sides were clearly satisfied with a point.
City had a chance to make a real statement about the shifting balance of power in Manchester, but showed a shocking lack of ambition - a fact emphasised by their scandalous time-wasting 94th-minute substitution of Emmanuel Adebayor for Carlos Tevez.
United, meanwhile, were content to repel City's limited threat and had the better of what chances there were, though Joe Hart was never seriously tested. They extended their unbeaten run this season to 12 matches but fell four points behind Chelsea.
Roberto Mancini's men faced the challenge of proving they have the killer instinct to match their individual quality.
The few moments of early quality came largely from men in blue. David Silva continues to grow in influence, while James Milner always impresses with his combination of application and ability, but neither could create a genuine opening.
United's star men burst fitfully into life - Nani and Dimitar Berbatov are consistently inconsistent, while Paul Scholes lacked the space to exert his usual influence.
It had been feared the trio would not play, but for all Alex Ferguson's portentious talk of a virus ripping through his squad, it was never likely that his leading lights would miss this one.
Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher, Berbatov and Scholes all started after making a quick recovery that led cynics to question the seriousness of the malady.
The only major absentees were Wayne Rooney - at boot camp in Oregon - and Ryan Giggs, who missed his first Manchester derby since 1991, ending a 33-match streak.
Javier Hernandez was consigned to the bench and Michael Carrick came in as United looked to match up against City's strong three-man central midfield.
When the Mexican did come on, it was at Berbatov's expense, with Ferguson unwilling to risk two men up front.
The game reflected this caution, barely supplying a single moment of note in either half, as the players failed to match the passion of the pre-match rendition of 'Blue Moon' that shook Eastlands.
Tevez forced Edwin van der Sar into a diving save with a free-kick, though the goalkeeper would have been embarrassed had it beaten him.
Otherwise, it was a midfield slog. Neither side attacked with enough pace, while expert defending from Vidic in particular, but also City's Vincent Kompany, snuffed out what half-chances there were.
Scholes saw a yellow card for one too many of his 'trademark' late challenges, while Tevez briefly squared up to Rafael in stoppage time, but tempers quickly cooled.
It felt like this match was so important to City, they dared not break their shackles. United, meanwhile, appeared to be content with a draw from the start.
The second period briefly threatened to burst into life, but never quite erupted. Berbatov tested Hart with an acrobatic volley on 57 minutes, and seconds later Tevez had another shot on target.
But both sides quickly reorganised and focused on nullifying each other - City's desperately ponderous attempts at counter-attacks making life easy for the visitors.
United's cause was not helped by losing both full-backs to injury, restricting Ferguson's scope to make substitutions - although Hernandez was the only proven attacker on the bench.
United scored stoppage-time winners in both Premier League matches against City last season, but there were no late fireworks as a hotly-anticipated derby turned into the dampest of squibs.Alex Chick / Eurosport