It was the first scoreless Manchester derby in five years - an outcome that left Louis van Gaal embittered and combative.
Not over the inability of his United team, likewise City to produce more than one shot on target but at the increased scrutiny of Wayne Rooney's performance up front in the Premier League on Sunday.
The agitation will surely grow for Van Gaal to shift Anthony Martial, the 19- year-old Frenchman who cost up to 80 million euros ($90 million) to sign last month, from the left wing to Rooney's favorite center forward role.
"I have to talk every week about Rooney, why?" the United manager said in the news conference after the 0-0 draw.
Few doubt Rooney's commitment in the twilight of his career. After a clash of heads in the first half with City captain Vincent Kompany, staples were applied to stem the flow of blood and the striker returned to action at Old Trafford.
"I don't give any answers more about Wayne Rooney because I am sick of it," Van Gaal said.
But United's top earner, who pockets up to 300,000 pounds ($460,000) a week, has scored only twice in his nine league games this season, did not even manage a shot off target against City and even his passes were wayward.
Such mediocrity was not confined to Rooney in the 170th Manchester derby as the neighbours, whose squads collectively cost more than $1.2 billion to assemble, provided a telling demonstration of how heavy spending does not always translate into glory on Sunday.
They remain among the title favourites. City returned to the top spot, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, with United two points back in fourth.
It took until the 82nd minute for Jesus Navas to curl a shot at United goalkeeper David De Gea. And Joe Hart only made his first save six minutes later when the City goalkeeper stretched to tip Chris Smalling's shot wide, just after United substitute Jesse Lingard hit the crossbar.
"I thought I'd notched the opener," Smalling said. "We were the team that was really pressing and going for that winner but it wasn't our luck."
For one of the world’s most acclaimed football rivalries, there was not a single Manchester-born player in either lineup as United and City both lacked sharpness.
Yaya Toure was the closest visiting player to get close to scoring in the first half; heading a ball over and scooping a shot wide.
At half time, Van Gaal recalled telling his players: "You can shoot also from outside the box ... push and try your luck."
The chants of "attack, attack, attack" seemed more in desperation than expectation from the home fans.
Not until the start of the second half did United look like it could breach Hart's goal, although Smalling's header from a corner floated wide.
"City have the right to play compact, and they have done it," Van Gaal said.
"They have a fantastic team also on the counterattack, but we have prevented that also in a very professional way. So I cannot complain."
Only in the last 10 minutes did either side show the desire required to collect all three points.
"The second half we lose so many balls that it was impossible to try to create chances," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. It was "a good draw in a difficult stadium with fantastic noisy fans."
Pascal Amoah with news wires
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