Manchester United had a penalty award overturned as their derby with Manchester City ended in a disappointing 0-0 draw in the Premier League on Saturday.
United were awarded a spot kick in the 48th minute when Kyle Walker kicked Marcus Rashford’s foot in the box but the decision was over-ruled after VAR found the United striker had been in an offside position.
The result left United in seventh place on 20 points with City one point behind in eighth after 11 games.
Pacesetters Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have 24 points from 11 matches before they play at Crystal Palace and Fulham respectively on Sunday.
With no fans inside a chilly Old Trafford due to COVID-19 restrictions, the passion and energy of the Manchester derby was absent but United will probably be the happier of the two teams.
After their Champions League exit at the hands of RB Leipzig on Tuesday, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed to avoid the kind of result that might have raised serious questions about his role.
The Norwegian set up his team in one of the more conservative of his tactical variations with just two strikers, three mainly defensive midfielders and Bruno Fernandes charged with creating openings.
If the job was to ensure that United restricted City and ground out a creditable draw then the structure worked — even if it was far from thrilling for the fans watching at home.
United were disciplined, stayed tight at the back and kept their shape across the field, leaving Solskjaer with some satisfaction at the end of a testing week.
“In my time against Manchester City that’s the best performance we have had. Not the best result but the best performance,” said the United boss.
City had created the best chance up to the penalty incident — a Riyad Mahrez shot saved by David De Gea in the 35th minute with Kevin De Bruyne unable to capitalise on the loose ball.
United’s best opportunity came in the 54th when Paul Pogba put Rashford in on the left but the striker slipped as he shot harmlessly wide and their first effort on goal did not come until a tame attempt straight at City keeper Ederson from Fernandes in the 88th.
City lacked the sparkle and shine of their best performances, with the use of Rodrigo and Fernandinho as a pair of holding midfielders indicating manager Pep Guardiola was also unwilling to go for bust in this fixture.
It was the sixth game in a row, in the league and Europe, in which City had kept a clean sheet and Guardiola was happy to have limited United.
“They score when they can run but we controlled them really well,” said the Spaniard, who conceded that the occasion was far from what the fixture usually presents.
“It is not a derby, it would be different with the people and maybe they pushed more. It is different every week without the people,” he said.