Manchester United’s chances of making the last 16 of the Champions League were left in the balance by a frustrating and disappointing goalless draw against PSV Eindhoven.
Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial were restored to the starting line-up, but neither could conjure up a sparkling performance on the tenth anniversary of George Best’s death.
How they could have done with a sprinkling of magic from their most famous number seven last night.
Louis van Gaal’s team created plenty of chances but, in the opposition box, looked toothless. Morgan Schneiderlin, Martial, Jesse Lingard and Memphis Depay – who was substituted against his old club after another poor showing – wasted chances and United played out their first European goalless draw at Old Trafford in over five years.
Victory would have sent Van Gaal’s team through but now they must win at Group B leaders Wolfsburg in their final match next month. And on the evidence of this uninspiring performance, qualification is by no means guaranteed.
After a quiet opening, Old Trafford came to light in the seventh minute. To mark the decade since Best’s death, United fans turned the flashlights on their phones and held them aloft in memory of the Northern Irishman, who wore seven during one of the club’s most successful periods in the 1960s and 1970s.
The current holder of that famous shirt was trying to rekindle memories of the Belfast boy.
Unfortunately for United, Depay does not have the finishing touch or class of Best.
The Dutchman did sting Jeroen Zoet’s palms with a 30-yard drive in the 15th minute but United looked stronger on the other flank.
Right-back Matteo Darmian whipped in a flat cross which Zoet missed, but Rooney mistimed his run at the back post by just a second.
Lingard, operating on the right wing instead of Juan Mata, misread Martial’s dummy inside the box and the ball dribbled into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Schneiderlin then wriggled free from Hector Moreno’s grasp in the box, but could only muster a weak shot at the goalkeeper. Martial did the same moments later.
United were creating plenty of chances, but buoyed by their profligacy, PSV came into the game.
The Dutch champions would have gone ahead had David de Gea not saved well from Jorrit Hendrix at the end of the first half.
Schneiderlin headed over Daley Blind’s corner, but otherwise United offered little at the beginning of the second period.
Van Gaal took Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger off and replaced them with Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini.
Still there was little sign of a United goal, and PSV remained a threat. Davy Propper juggled the ball before letting fly with a half-volley which De Gea saved.
A mistake from Rooney allowed PSV to go on the break. For a moment they had three on three, but Jurgen Locadia dragged his shot wide.
The first rumbles of “Attack! Attack! Attack!” were heard from the disgruntled supporters in the Stretford End with 20 minutes left.
Young pierced the PSV box and pulled the ball back to Lingard, but he cleared the bar from eight yards. He thumped the turf, knowing he should have scored. None of his team-mates could either and United were left sweating on their place in the Champions League.