A goalless draw was the outcome of a Manchester derby devoid of any moments of real quality from either Man Utd or Man City.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had said in the buildup to the match that the derby was the best game they could have hoped for to focus on after the disappointment of being knocked out of the Champions League in midweek.
However, while United at least avoided defeat, it was not a vintage performance – and the same went for their rivals.
Either side could have temporarily gone into the top four with a win. However, they both seemed more keen not to lose than to go for the three points.
It was a derby like no other, as it was the first to be played behind closed doors since the coronavirus outbreak. The lack of fans perhaps affected the intensity of the game; there were even only two yellow cards acros the whole 90 minutes.
Solskjaer brought Paul Pogba back into the starting lineup for United after he came off the bench in the last Champions League match. It was his first start since his agent Mino Raiola gave a controversial interview about his client’s future.
Pogba was looking to make a more positive impression on the pitch, and almost created the first chance of the game by picking out Bruno Fernandes with a clever pass. However, Fernandes’ ball across the box was cut out.
The resulting corner almost led to a big chance for Scott McTominay, but the midfielder could not quite get on the end of a flick on.
City, without star striker Sergio Aguero due to gastroenteritis, began to make some chances of their own. Raheem Sterling skipped past a couple of defenders before running into trouble as he got his shot away.
Gabriel Jesus, entrusted with the centre-forward role in Aguero’s absence, failed to hit the target from close range shortly after.
City’s best chance yet came 35 minutes in after a promising team move, but Riyad Mahrez could not convert at the end of it.
It was the standout moment of a disappointing first half – and the second half began in similar fashion.
VAR overturns United penalty
United thought they had been given a big chance to take the lead when referee Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot after Marcus Rashford was clipped in the box.
However, a VAR check found that Rashford had been offside when receiving the ball. Therefore, the penalty decision was overturned.
It took until the 87th minute for the first shot on target of the second half. Bruno Fernandes’ spontaneous effort lacked any real power, though.
Fernandes had another chance to score late on, but his shot from outside the box was overly ambitious and sailed wide.
Just two minutes were added at the end, a sign of how quiet the game had been.
Not much happened in those additional minutes, either. It meant the Manchester derby finished goalless for the first time since 2017 – and for only the fifth time in the 21st Century.
If there was one positive either side could take, it was for City. They have now kept six clean sheets in a row, which equals a club record.