MANCHESTER United’s need for attacking reinforcements was laid bare at Old Trafford as they stuttered to a goalless draw against Newcastle.
The Red Devils dominated the opening 20 minutes, but failed to score on a frustrating afternoon for Louis van Gaal’s team.
After a week in which they failed to land target Pedro, United lacked a cutting edge up front.
Wayne Rooney’s goal drought now stretches to 10 games. The captain thought he had put United ahead early on but his effort was ruled out for a marginal offside call.
The England captain had a shot blocked inside the area after the break, but otherwise failed to show he is the answer to United’s scoring troubles.
It was not just Rooney who struggled in front of goal, however. Juan Mata and Memphis Depay also missed chances while Tim Krul performed some late heroics to deny substitute Javier Hernandez.
The result ended United’s perfect start to the season and provided yet more evidence that Van Gaal needs to add more attacking players to his squad before the transfer window shuts in nine days.
Rooney, who had scored 11 in 17 previous starts for United against Newcastle, looked to have ended his wait for a goal in the fourth minute when he latched on to Mata’s through-ball and lifted the ball over Krul, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Despite his indifferent start to the season, Rooney’s confidence was high. He drove a low shot at Krul from distance. The Dutchman then pulled off a top save to deny Mata from a free-kick.
Steve McClaren, the Newcastle manager, worried about his team’s poor start, came down to the touchline from the directors’ box. He had every reason to be worried. His team were creaking under pressure from United’s relentless attacking play. Mata and Rooney tested Krul again and Depay then rounded the Magpies’ goalkeeper but was unable to finish.
As the first half progressed, Newcastle started coming back into the game. Out of nowhere, Aleksandar Mitrovic leapt high to beat Matteo Darmian to the ball and rattle the crossbar.
Ayoze Perez then drilled a low shot wide after a mistake by Daley Blind.
United failed to take a grip of the game after the restart. Depay wasted a good chance by firing a free-kick into the wall.
Van Gaal brought Michael Carrick and Hernandez on for Bastian Schweinsteiger and Adnan Januzaj. Rooney dropped into the No 10 position, leaving Hernandez up front.
The Stretford End yelled “Attack! Attack! Attack!” Van Gaal’s men obliged, but there was no breakthrough.
Steven Taylor blocked Rooney’s volley in the penalty box and Mata blazed way over the bar after being found by his captain with a deep cross.
Luke Shaw played a neat one-two with Morgan Schneiderlin before driving a low shot at Krul.
The Newcastle goalkeeper then pulled off the save of the match to deny Hernandez from eight yards.
Fabricio Coloccini blocked Antonio Valencia’s shot, Chris Smalling struck the woodwork and a screamer from Carrick flew inches wide as United looked for another late goal at Old Trafford.
But it never came and Newcastle could have snatched all three points at the death had Papiss Cisse’s cross been converted on the counter.
Meanwhile, Van Gaal insists David De Gea will not leave Manchester United before the transfer window shuts. De Gea was in the stands against Newcastle because Van Gaal feels the Spanish goalkeeper is still not able to focus properly because of Real Madrid’s interest in him.
According to reports in Spain, the 10-time European champions will make one last attempt to sign the player before the window shuts on September 1.
But Van Gaal said: “I think when Manchester United wants a player he will come, but the club have to want to sell,” the United manager said .“It is the same with us. We are not selling De Gea.”