LONDON: Manchester United responded well to their chastening Champions League exit but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could not find a way past Manchester City in a tame, goalless derby draw.
The empty stands no doubt played a part in the 183rd Manchester derby lacking bite and intensity, nine months on from a packed crowd roaring their side to victory in what proved to be the last Old Trafford match with supporters.
There was not even a yellow card until the 79th minute on Saturday evening as the rivals played out a 0-0 draw in which both sides had chances but lacked the required cutting edge to eke out victory.
United started far more focused than Tuesday’s costly Champions League loss at RB Leipzig and were a threat from set pieces, but City had the best chance of the first half when Riyad Mahrez was denied before Kevin De Bruyne fired over.
Solskjaer’s side have tended to grow into games and were awarded a penalty moments after half-time, but the video assistant referee rightly ruled that Marcus Rashford was offside before Kyle Walker kicked him in the box.
That chance woke City’s backline up and the United defence produced the kind of solid display that has been sorely lacking recently as the derby ended without a goal.
Solskjaer urged his side to be at it from the start on Saturday after their costly early capitulation in Germany and the players heeded that advice, looking far more controlled as De Bruyne attempted to prise open the defence.
United went close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute when Luke Shaw’s corner was glanced on by Victor Lindelof and just beyond Scott McTominay racing in at the far post.
Raheem Sterling jinked into space and saw a shot blocked by Harry Maguire at the other end, while the killer instinct of the absent Sergio Aguero was sorely missed when Gabriel Jesus blazed over from a lovely clipped Mahrez pass.
The sides continued to share chances during an even first half lacking the typical derby vibe.
Paul Pogba, starting for the first time since his agent’s controversial comments, saw a shot blocked and United skipper Maguire powered over a header from the resulting corner.
The visitors’ best chance of the night came in a lightning-quick 35th-minute break.
Jesus burst forwards, De Bruyne played a stunning first-time touch out to Mahrez, whose shot was saved well by David De Gea before De Bruyne fired over the rebound.
Lindelof headed over from a corner towards the end of a goalless first half which was followed by United being awarded a penalty within two minutes of the restart.
With England boss Gareth Southgate watching in the stands, right-back Walker kicked international team-mate Rashford when attempting to clear the ball and referee Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot.
It was a big chance rightly ripped away by the VAR as the United forward had strayed offside in the build-up.
Unbalanced Mason Greenwood missed the target and Rashford fired wide as the home side continued a bright start to the second period, with
City’s only chance a wayward Fernandinho attempt.
De Bruyne was beginning to look frustrated as United stayed solid, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka doing well to stop Sterling before Maguire superbly got in the way of a De Bruyne attempt.
City pressure was slowly creeping up and Maguire became the first player of the evening booked when clumsily bringing down Jesus in the 79th minute.
Fernandinho followed him into referee Kavanagh’s notebook, with Bruno Fernandes seeing a late snapshot easily saved before firing across the face of goal.
De Gea, whose place had been under scrutiny, comfortably held a bobbling Rodri attempt in the dying embers of a derby that never caught light.
Chelsea’s 17-match unbeaten run was ended by an Edouard Mendy error at Goodison Park as a patched-up Everton side won 1-0 to deny their visitors the chance of going top of the table.
The Blues goalkeeper, bought this season to replace the unconvincing Kepa Arrizabalaga, clumsily brought down Dominic Calvert-Lewin which allowed Gylfi Sigurdsson to score the decisive 22nd-minute penalty.
Mendy’s rush of blood came after he saw the Toffees striker get the better of the experienced Thiago Silva in the air, but when Calvert-Lewin poked the ball past him there was nowhere to go but clatter into the England international.
It was the ideal scenario for Carlo Ancelotti’s team, who due to injuries lined up with a quartet of centre-halves across the back four and without their influential playmaker James Rodriguez, subsequently defended resolutely and counter-attacked sporadically to secure a welcome three points after one victory in their previous six outings.
That tactic almost helped them double their lead but a second penalty, awarded after the excellent Calvert-Lewin was tugged back by Ben Chilwell, was chalked off for offside.
Chelsea, who went into the weekend the Premier League’s second-highest scorers behind Liverpool, managed just 10 shots and hit a post through Reece James and Mason Mount as Frank Lampard’s 50th Premier League match in charge ended in defeat – their first since losing to Liverpool on September 20.
Centre-forward Olivier Giroud, who was attempting to become only the second Chelsea player to score in seven successive Premier League starts, barely had a chance.
All the focus had been on Everton’s makeshift full-backs but Mason Holgate, on the right, did an impressive job of keeping Timo Werner quiet, although Ben Godfrey found a marauding James a different prospect.
The plus side of having four central defenders was they were not inclined to go too far over the halfway line and once Everton got in front they stuck to their task of stopping Chelsea’s attackers and it worked with a first clean sheet since the opening game of the season.
Chelsea’s control of early possession barely benefited them and they went behind midway through the first half thanks to some route one football and classic centre-forward play.
Calvert-Lewin outjumped Silva from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s long pass and then poked the ball past Mendy as he charged out, with the goalkeeper’s momentum taking out the Everton striker.
Richarlison, without a Premier League goal since September, wanted the penalty but compatriot Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure persuaded him to relinquish the ball and Sigurdsson coolly sent Mendy the wrong way.
It did little for the Brazil international’s confidence and, having earlier shot weakly at Mendy when well-placed, he made it too easy for the goalkeeper to save with his legs when Silva gave away possession and Alex Iwobi and Sigurdsson sprang the counter.
In between the goal and that last chance of the half, Pickford’s good form from last week’s draw at Burnley continued as he twice saved well from James, tipping one shot onto a post at full stretch.
When Pickford came to the edge of his area to punch early in the second half, Mount dropped a lob onto the roof of the net, with the same player later beating Pickford but not the woodwork with a free-kick.
Everton’s chances were infrequent, with Yerry Mina taking a cross right off the head of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison’s first decent shot forcing a good, low save from Mendy before Sigurdsson – only in the side because of Rodriguez’s calf injury – was denied the chance to double his penalty tally by VAR.
Tammy Abraham replaced the ineffectual Kai Havertz for the last 22 minutes but it had little effect on the outcome as the first 2,000 fans inside Goodison since March celebrated a welcome victory.