LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League by drawing 0-0 away to Manchester United in a disappointing local derby on Sunday that only flickered into life in the dying stages.
City have 22 points, the same as Arsenal, but a better goal difference.
United stay fourth, two points behind, with West Ham United also above them. They came closest to a goal when substitute Jesse Lingard hit the bar six minutes from the end.
City had won six of the previous eight league derbies, but like the home side found chances hard to come by this time.
There were more yellow cards than chances in a first half during which United did not manage a single attempt on goal.
City did at least have a header by Yaya Toure following a corner that drifted wide and an earlier shot by Raheem Sterling deflected for a corner.
Fernandinho and returning captain Vincent Kompany received yellow cards, as did the home side’s Juan Mata, joined later by Morgan Schneiderlin.
United improved after the interval, Chris Smalling going close with a header from a corner and Mata only just being beaten to a through ball by goalkeeper Joe Hart.
They brought on Jesse Lingard and Marouane Fellaini while City took off Yaya Toure and it was the United pair who came closest to creating a goal in the last few minutes.
The lively Lingard latched onto a pass from Anthony Martial and hit the bar before Fellaini headed down for Smalling to bring the only significant save from either goalkeeper, as Hart turned his shot behind for a corner.
Despite manager Louis van Gaal’s concerns about fatigue following Wednesday’s long trip to Moscow for a Champions League game, while City had played at home, United finished the stronger.
“We came wanting three points but respect to Manchester United, we had to defend well and limited them to two half chances,” Hart told the BBC.
“We don’t want praise, we want points. We are back on top of the league now and we can hopefully kick on.”
City skipper Kompany admitted the game had not lived up expectations.
“I don’t know how it looked from the outside but it didn’t feel like a dynamic derby,” he said.
“Both teams looked defensively solid.
“Everyone knows how much this game means to me. I was disappointed to be left out of the team (previously) but it is all about opinions. There is no problem with me and the manager.”
(Reporting by Steve Tongue; editing by Toby Davis)