x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Man Utd lack spark, but will be pleased with result in Champions League

At times uninspiring, Manchester United grind out a 0-0 draw at Marseille in the first-leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

Dimitar Berbatov, right, struggles to shake off Souleymane Diawara as Manchester United earn a draw in Marseille.
Dimitar Berbatov, right, struggles to shake off Souleymane Diawara as Manchester United earn a draw in Marseille.

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Marseille 0 // Manchester United 0

MARSEILLE // Manchester United gained a valuable 0-0 draw at Marseille in the Champions League last night but their uninspired display will not have had the likes of Barcelona quaking in their boots.

Marseille boss Didier Deschamps said before the game that three-time European winners United lacked "fantasy" now names like Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo are long gone.

With Ryan Giggs injured, Wayne Rooney still not firing, Dimitar Berbatov inconsistent and Nani flattering to deceive, the spark was indeed missing at the Stade Velodrome where the vibrant fans offered the only element of colour.

The hosts struggled to create anything concrete either and Sir Alex Ferguson, United's manager, remained confident the Premier League leaders would progress to the quarter-finals in the second-leg at Old Trafford on March 15.

"You'd have to say Manchester United at home, we've got a good chance. We just need to win. I don't care if it's 10-9," he said.

"A goal away from home is always important, that's a disappointment but I don't think Marseille presented any problems to us in attacking sense. Nothing really happened in the match ... and it wasn't a good match to watch."

The game summed up United's season, effective but without any great conviction or flair and fans will fear for their prospects further into the competition if they do not find another gear.

The Marseille match programme paid tribute to recently retired United defender Gary Neville, describing the former England man as "mythical", and it was exactly the sort of match the dependable if unspectacular right back used to thrive in.

In a dull first-half, only United's Darren Fletcher had a really good chance when his sharp effort was smartly saved by Steve Mandanda.

The Ligue 1 champions, who have not reached this stage since becoming the only French side to win the trophy in 1993, upped the pace after the break but Brandao's weak header and Andre Ayew's shot across goal were the only notable efforts.

Deschamps knows the second-leg will be difficult but he should have top forward Mathieu Valbuena fully fit and hopes to have fellow striker Andre-Pierre Gignac back from injury.

"Fifty per cent of the job is done as we didn't concede," said the Frenchman, who led Monaco to the final in 2004.

"We were a bit better in the second-half. I'm proud of my players but probably in three weeks at Old Trafford it will be a different story. Hope is still there but I'm sure United and Ferguson are happy with that result."