MANCHESTER // An injury-depleted Manchester United held crosstown rival Manchester City to an uneventful 0-0 draw yesterday that failed to live up to the hype of the much-anticipated derby.
The result puts both teams further behind Premier League leader Chelsea, which now has a four-point lead over second-place United following a 1-0 win over Fulham. City is fourth, another three points back.
"In the buildup to the game, there was maybe too much tension to be as open a match as many people thought there was going to be," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "I think City are difficult to beat on their own ground. That was obvious from the way they set their stall out in the second half, for us to break them down. They are very powerful and experienced that way. They are obviously going to be difficult to beat on their own ground."
A lackluster first half brought just one clear chance as City's former United striker Carlos Tevez's 39th-minute free kick forced goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar into an acrobatic save.
While both teams are hoping to compete for the Premier League title, there was little attacking ambition from either side and the second half offered even less action inside the goalmouth.
City at least avoided a repeat of last year, when it allowed United to score injury-time winners in both league meetings.
"It's a good point for me. I think we are improving from last year," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "I prefer one point tonight than no points like last year when we scored a few goals and lost. We tried to win because we want to win. When you play every few days the players are tired so I think a point is important. We're getting closer to United and need more time."
Dimitar Berbatov's 56th-minute volley was easily caught by Joe Hart, and apart from a wayward shot from City defender Pablo Zabaleta and a deflected effort from United's Michael Carrick, neither goalkeeper was troubled seriously again.
After a feisty start, United started finding space in which to operate outside the City area. Darren Fletcher laid off the ball for Carrick for United's first attempt of the game, but the quick shot soared high.
Park Ji-sung's neat one-two with Patrice Evra in the 21st sent the French defender into the City area only for him to produce a weak shot which was comfortably stopped by Hart.
Both teams seemed content to engage in a series of niggly fouls to disrupt play, and it was a trip by Paul Scholes on James Milner in that led to Tevez testing van der Sar with a free kick.
United responded as Evra's left-wing cross found Berbatov, but the Bulgarian's half-hit volley only succeeded in bouncing into the turf and presenting Hart with an easy gather.
United substitute Wes Brown sent another cross toward Berbatov early in the second half, but Hart comfortably stopped the attempt.
Ryan Giggs missed the game after a virus swept through the United camp this week, and striker Wayne Rooney is still not fit after an ankle injury.