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.
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.
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 Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata deployed by David Moyes, the visitors struggled to produce a real threat to unsettle Arsenal.
The match was characterized by a lack of finesse across the pitch, while the intensity and feistiness these great rivals can usually be relied on to provide was clearly 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 United shirt.
Giroud was equally wasteful, misdirecting a free header wide and nodding over when under no pressure from a corner before halftime.
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-placed 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.
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