Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League after holding neighbors Manchester United to a goalless result at Old Trafford in a derby featuring precious few goal-scoring opportunities. It was a contest that neither side appeared too unhappy to have finish all square, although it was the hosts pushing keener for a decisive goal in the closing exchanges. With six minutes remaining substitute Jesse Lingard flicked a volley against the crossbar in the closest either side got to finding the net in a drab 90 minutes.
The result means City go back above Arsenal to the top of the Premier League on goal difference, while United drop down to fourth, behind West Ham, also on goal difference. But both teams may well be satisfied to get through the fixture without any major damage suffered. Manchester City were missing their two key attacking talents, Sergio Aguero and David Silva through injury, and lined up with two holding midfielders in Fernando and Fernandinho in a clear signal of Manuel Pellegrini’s caution.
United, meanwhile, have avoided the kind of chastening defeat they suffered in their only other fixture against top-level opposition this season. The 3-0 loss to Arsenal earlier this month appeared to be at the forefront of Louis van Gaal’s mind, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger pairing up in midfield and the whole team focused on diligently recovering their shape whenever the ball was turned over. That task they performed admirably, limiting the impact of City’s chief in-form danger men, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
But United were sorely lacking in attacking threat. Again Wayne Rooney was leading the attack, with Anthony Martial pushed to the left and Memphis Depay relegated to the bench. It left a front four desperately bereft of pace with the exception of the young Frenchman. One of Rooney’s most memorable moments had come when scoring with a stunning overhead volley in this fixture four years ago, but anything approaching that magic was again nowhere in sight on Sunday.
Manchester United had plenty of possession, but it wasn’t until the dying minutes that they mounted any kind of threat to Joe Hart’s goal. Martial was unsurprisingly the spark, chipping a fine through ball for Lingard running in behind. The22-year-old’s volley was inventive, but it was just too high to fall under the crossbar. Hart then had to make his first real save in the fixture two minutes from the end when Marouane Fellaini, off the bench as a direct option late on, headed down and Chris Smalling struck low to the near post, but Hart did well to get across.