Marouane Fellaini was sent off for headbutting Sergio Aguero as Manchester City and Manchester United fought out an attritional goalless draw at Etihad Stadium to leave their hopes of a place in the Premier League’s top four still in the balance.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will be the happier after they extended their unbeaten league run to 24 games, a feat achieved without Fellaini in the closing stages after he was dismissed for a senseless headbutt on Aguero.
Argentine Aguero came closest for City when he hit the post early on and manager Pep Guardiola was left with an injury concern when keeper Claudio Bravo was taken off on a stretcher after injuring his calf catching a cross in the second half.
City substitute Gabriel Jesus had a later header correctly ruled out for offside as they remain in fourth place, with United a point behind in fifth as both sides have five games remaining.
Resilient Man Utd still in top four hunt
United had 30.8% possession – their lowest figure in a Premier League game since Opta started recording possession in 2003-04.
But Mourinho’s side showed all the qualities that have ensured they have remained unbeaten in the Premier League since October to battle their way to a point here.
United spent much of the game on the back foot and almost the entire second half camped in their own territory, but showed the reserves of resilience, organisation and defiance that compensates for their current lack of stardust.
Michael Carrick provided the solid platform and for the most part City were frustrated, with too many efforts off target or lacking the power to trouble United keeper David de Gea.
United carried real threat in the pace of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial but their midfield lacked the guile to provide the right service.
This result keeps United right in the hunt for the top four as they stand in fifth place, one point behind City and two points behind third-placed Liverpool with a game in hand.
The biggest minus on their night was the crass stupidity of Fellaini, needlessly involved in the incident that saw him thrust his head into the face of Aguero.
Fellaini had been booked 19 seconds earlier for another foul on the City forward and after his red card the Belgian had to be encouraged to leave the field by his team-mates.
Man City lack killer touch
This was deja vu for City and Guardiola – so much possession and territory, too little end result.
City created the best chances and effectively spent the second 45 minutes camped in United territory but as on so many occasions this season, including the FA Cup semi-final loss to Arsenal, possession and territory was not turned into scoreline supremacy.
It is a puzzle Guardiola must solve and one which will cause him disquiet given the range of attacking talent at his disposal.
City are still having to fight for that top four place and Guardiola must hope his side discover a ruthless edge, with the return to fitness of Gabriel Jesus sure to help. The Brazilian, signed last year but unable to play until January, was making his first appearance since he was injured playing against Bournemouth on 13 February.
Kompany back to his best
Vincent Kompany’s return to form and fitness has been massive bonus for Manchester City and Guardiola – and the 31-year-old who has captained the club to two Premier League titles looked back to his imperious best against Manchester United.
Kompany gives City’s defence added power and assurance, as well as leadership, and illustrated again how much he has been missed as he has battled a succession of injuries.
He played only 33 games in 2014-15 and 22 last season, a total that included only 14 league matches, and this was only his 10th appearance this term as the campaign moves into May.
This was the first time in more than a year Kompany has put together a sequence of three successive games and came after a tough 120 minutes in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat by Arsenal at Wembley.
Kompany is providing quality for the present and may also give Guardiola food for thought when he makes his summer transfer plans, which are almost certain to include a move for another central defender, with Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk and Burnley’s Michael Keane among those linked with a switch to Etihad Stadium.
United see red again – the stats
- Seven of the eight red cards given in this Premier League fixture have been to Manchester United players.
- Sergio Aguero attempted nine shots in this match. The last player to attempt more in a competitive game against the Red Devils was Cristiano Ronaldo (11) for Real Madrid in a Champions League match back in March 2013.
- This equals the most shots that Aguero has attempted in a Premier League game without scoring (9) – level with his appearance versus West Brom in March 2015.
- The two occasions that Manchester United have allowed their opponents the most shots in a Premier League game this season have both been against Man City (18 at Old Trafford and 19 tonight).
- United have equalled their record for the longest unbeaten run within a single top-flight season – 24 games, level with 2010-11.
- City have now failed to score in four of their last five Manchester derbies in all competitions.
Manchester City will climb above Liverpool, who don’t play until Monday, if they win at relegation-threatened Middlesbrough on Sunday (14:05 BST), while Manchester United host struggling Swansea City at Old Trafford on the same day (12:00 BST).