By George Sessions, PA
Manchester United fired a third consecutive blank and had to settle for a point at Crystal Palace to all but see their Premier League title challenge end.
A day after rivals Manchester City made it 21 wins in a row to open up a 15-point gap at the top, the Red Devils were left frustrated in a goalless draw with the Eagles and have won only one of their last five matches in the division.
Chances were few and far between and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have now gone 285 minutes without a goal heading into Sunday’s derby at the Etihad.
David De Gea missed the trip to London due to personal reasons and it resulted in Dean Henderson being handed only his third league start this season.
In foggy and cold conditions, the United goalkeeper was called into action early at Selhurst Park but gathered two crosses with ease while Christian Benteke volleyed over from a promising position for the hosts.
Opposite number Vicente Guaita was required after 13 minutes and produced a fine save to deny Nemanja Matic’s deflected strike before Edinson Cavani poked over from the resulting corner with the opening exchanges end-to-end.
Marcus Rashford should have broken the deadlock soon after but he side-footed wide after Luke Shaw had picked him out inside the area.
Suddenly it turned into attack vs defence with Solskjaer’s men completely dominant and Mason Greenwood had an effort deflected wide in the 23rd minute.
Palace were able to weather the storm but they were indebted to Joel Ward on the stroke of half-time. Aaron Wan-Bissaka delivered a tantalising ball across the face of goal and only a wonderful sliding clearance by right-back Ward denied Cavani a tap-in.
Roy Hodgson saw his side begin the second period strongly and after Benteke’s acrobatic effort was deflected over, Jordan Ayew forced Henderson into action with a fierce drive six minutes after the restart.
With mist making visibility difficult in the capital, United, in their zebra kit, were still to earn their stripes and Andros Townsend fired wide in another warning to the away side who had not clicked into gear following the interval.
After firing blanks in their last two matches with Chelsea and Real Sociedad, Solskajer’s options on the bench were limited with Anthony Martial absent due to a minor knee injury and frustration was building for the visitors after captain Harry Maguire and Rashford exchanged words.
Scott McTominay and Daniel James were summoned with time running out but the latter was surprisingly introduced in place of Cavani.
It saw Greenwood now down the middle and he curled over from 20-yards before Shaw sliced wide. There was still time for one more opportunity but it went to Palace.
Left-back Patrick Van Aanholt was played through, but Henderson ensured it finished 0-0 with a crucial save so United trail City by 14 points with 11 league fixtures left.
Palace extended their unbeaten run to three games following another dogged display and have kept five clean sheets since the turn of the year.