A cautious Manchester United frustrated hosts Liverpool as a lacklustre North-West Premier League derby ended 0-0 on Saturday with neither side able to find the creative touch.
The draw leaves United alone at the top of the table on 20 points although Manchester City, who are now a point behind, can regain first place when they host Stoke City later on Saturday.
Those hoping for a classic blood-and-thunder clash of the two most successful clubs in English football were probably being overly optimistic but few would have predicted such an uninspiring 90 minutes at Anfield.
United manager Jose Mourinho’s team selection suggested that, as last season, he would adopt a cautious approach to taking on Juergen Klopp’s side.
Instead of Spanish craftsman Juan Mata on the right, the more defensively diligent Ashley Young started in the role and Marcus Rashford, carrying a slight knock from England duty, was left on the bench.
With United’s Romelu Lukaku left alone – and isolated – in attack and French forward Anthony Martial shunting up and down the left with little inspiration, United sat deep and waited to see what Liverpool could do with the possession.
The answer was not very much.
Brazilian Philippe Coutinho drifted into pockets of space and from time to time threatened to produce something eye-catching, while Egyptian Mohamed Salah’s pace and dribbling caused some awkward moments for United left-back Matteo Darmian.
But those glimmers of flair were not enough to create any sustained pressure on United and, as the second half drifted towards a goalless draw, neither side could find another gear or the inventiveness to create a clear opening.
Liverpool’s best chance came in the 35th minute but United keeper David De Gea pulled off a superb save with his legs to keep out a shot from Joel Matip and Salah’s follow up was wide.
United created little beyond a Lukaku shot two minutes before the interval which was well dealt with by keeper Simon Mignolet.
The only half-chance of a poor second half came when Liverpool’s Emre Can tried to get on the end of a floated ball from Jose Gomez but could not turn his effort goalwards.