A Manchester derby that promised so much delivered precious little as City and United ground out a goalless stalemate at Eastlands.

At least for Roberto Mancini's men there was no injury-time heartache, having suffered three such defeats last term. For United, who controlled long periods, their unbeaten run in all competitions now stretches to 25 games. In truth, the result only suited leaders Chelsea, whose 1-0 over Fulham tonight pushes them four points clear of second-placed United.

"Some of our football was very good, we were very confident, had good composure on the ball," said Ferguson. "But we needed to make chances, we needed to win the match. And in that sense we had only two chances from open play so that's a bit of a disappointment for us.

"It's a decent result but we don't count draws as a target. Our target was to win the game and we had enough possession to do that," added the United manager,

As the virus that has swept through the United camp had eased sufficiently for all bar Ryan Giggs to report for duty, Ferguson must have been quite pleased with his selection. Despite Giggs' absence, United had plenty of experience on the pitch, which they used to its maximum during a disappointing opening period which they largely controlled without being able to carve out the opportunity they craved.

It's a decent result but we don't count draws as a target. Our target was to win the game and we had enough possession to do that.

Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager

One decent chance did come United's way, when one of a number of neat passing moves ended with Park Ji-sung feeding a ball into the City box for Patrice Evra to chase. Had Evra been able to step round Kolo Toure and shoot with his left foot, the hosts would have been in trouble. As it was, the Frenchman had to let fly with his right and Joe Hart made a comfortable save. For their part, City were equally bereft, which was frustrating for supporters, who clearly expected more of Yaya Toure in particular given the frustration they expressed every time their big-money summer signing from Barcelona wasted possession, as he seemed to do quite frequently.

There was almost half an hour on the clock before they built up any momentum, with the industrious James Milner chief instigator. It was United old-boy Carlos Tevez who came closest to breaking the deadlock though, after Paul Scholes had bundled Milner over on the edge of the area. Tevez quickly made it clear the free-kick would be his responsibility and only its relative lack of pace allowed Edwin van der Sar to claw the ball out as it headed for the far corner.

Aside from a Nani free-kick that lacked pace and a mis-timed Dimitar Berbatov volley, both of which bounced harmlessly through to Hart, there was little more in the way of first-half goalmouth action. Indeed, the only other notable moment was the foul by Scholes on Milner just before the break which resulted in a fifth yellow card of the season, ruling him out of Saturday's trip to Aston Villa.

The pattern continued after the restart, with Berbatov getting his clearest sight of goal, albeit with his back to it as he hooked Wes Brown's cross goalwards without being able to test Hart. Tevez threatened twice at the other end, the first time with a shot that Van der Sar gathered easily, the second a burst that ended with poor control on the ball, sending it bobbling out for a goal kick.

Adam Johnson seemed like an obvious man for Mancini to turn to and his introduction for Milner 20 minutes from time instantly brought the width his side had been so devoid of. As Javier Hernandez was given his first taste of derby day shortly afterwards, a rousing finish to an otherwise lackluster encounter was promised. However, even the eager substitutes could not break the deadlock.