LONDON (AP) — Title challenger Arsenal and struggling champion Manchester United ground out a scoreless draw at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday on a drab night that caused further damage to the visitors' ambitions in a lackluster season.
Robin van Persie had United's best chances on his return to Arsenal, squandering an early effort and then seeing a late header brilliantly tipped against the bar by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Olivier Giroud was ineffective up front for an energy-sapped Arsenal side, wasting a couple of headers and lacking his finishing touch on a night.
"You felt our team was highly focused not to concede tonight, and maybe restricted a little bit our game going forward because we were certainly hit by the five goals we conceded on Saturday," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, referring to the 5-1 loss at Liverpool. "And you could feel that a little bit tonight ... we were nervous.
"Where we are usually always very dangerous breaking through the middle with speedy passing, Man United defended very well there."
Arsenal was the least damaged by the result, missing a chance to go top but going a point behind leader Chelsea, which also drew on Tuesday.
But with fourth-place Liverpool winning, seventh-place United went 11 points behind the Champions League places.
"If there is one club in history who have been great at winning games in the second half of the season and putting pressure on the teams above it is Manchester United," manager David Moyes said. "We will continue to try and do that and make it work."
How different from the last time United was here in April when the team was welcomed onto the pitch with a guard of honor by Arsenal, having won the title with weeks to spare.
Now the Red Devils are struggling to even make the Champions League places, especially with fifth-place Tottenham winning at Newcastle in the northeast on Wednesday.
Even with Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata deployed by Moyes, the visitors struggled to produce a menacing moments to unsettle Arsenal.
The match was characterized by a lack of finesse across the pitch, with the intensity and feistiness these great rivals can usually be relied on missing.
On a chilly night in London, the players seemed to freeze when the goal came in sight.
Few players could have been more motivated than Van Persie in his second season at United since leaving Arsenal. The Netherlands striker carved out a chance to score inside three minutes, dispossessing goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, but produced a poor finish when he was through on goal.
It was the story of the night all round.
When Van Persie was released by Mata he skewed a cross nowhere near a red shirt.
Giroud was equally wasteful, misdirecting a free header wide and nodding over when under no pressure from a corner before half time.
Both sides did come closer in the second half, but could find no way of getting the ball over the line.
United had Antonio Valencia to thank for his defensive work, clearing Laurent Koscielny's downward header from Santi Cazorla's corner off the line. Then it was Giroud's chance to send another header off target before failing to make a connection after racing in to meet Bacary Sagna's well-place cross.
Only in the closing stages did United come to life again, with a move that merited a goal. Van Persie charged forward, and played a one-two with Rooney before sending in a powerful header than Szczesny did well to tip onto the bar.
At the other end it was De Gea who saved from Mesut Ozil on a night when Arsenal's record signing went a 12th match without scoring.
"If you'd have said to me at the start of the season that we'd get four points off Arsenal then I'd say that's not that bad," Moyes said, referring to United's victory at Old Trafford in November. "It's other games where we have let ourselves down."