Tottenham Hotspur 0 Man Utd 0
Hugo Lloris refused to be beaten as Manchester United finished an ignominious 2014 with a goalless draw at Tottenham.
Louis van Gaal, who succeeded the sacked David Moyes in the summer, had been hoping to end a fraught year on a high and continue United’s bid to regain a Champions League place.
It was the first time United had named an unchanged starting XI since November 2012, in 85 Premier League games; curious timing given they had played fewer than 48 hours previously.
United, who had not lost at White Hart Lane since May 2001, swept Newcastle aside in 53 minutes in the 3-1 win and had it not been for Lloris the visitors would have been out of sight at the interval.
The Spurs goalkeeper saved twice from Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie and Ashley Young and was complimented by opposite number David de Gea as the teams left the field at half-time.
The one time Lloris was beaten Juan Mata’s deflected free-kick hit the post and Vlad Chiriches cleared the rebound off the line ahead of Van Persie.
Van Persie and Mata fired over in a second half in which Spurs, who next play Chelsea, had the better openings without really testing De Gea as the match ended in a stalemate.
United still have won only twice away from home this season and now go to Stoke on New Year’s Day hoping for a brighter 2015.
Spurs, who made four changes following the win at Leicester, had a couple of scrappy half-chances before United took control.
The first came after Wayne Rooney was dispossessed by Harry Kane, who threaded a pass through for Ryan Mason only for the midfielder to be squeezed off the ball.
Rooney attempted to make amends by setting up Falcao, but Jan Vertonghen blocked and the Colombia striker then should have done better than shoot weakly at Lloris following Mata’s pass.
Mata struck the post with a curling free-kick which flicked off the head of Ryan Mason, who was standing in the wall.
Van Persie tried to tuck in the rebound, but Chiriches somehow scrambled clear.
The offside flag saved Spurs when Phil Jones’ header appeared to cross the line before being hooked clear as United continued to build the pressure.
Benjamin Stambouli and Andros Townsend were booked in quick succession for fouls on Michael Carrick and Young as Spurs temporarily, and illegally, stemmed the tide of attacks.
Then Falcao shot meekly at Lloris after being found by Mata and Van Persie also had a chance but he was unable to control Carrick’s lofted ball inside the six-yard box.
It was the sort of opportunity Van Persie usually makes look easy but he was thwarted by Lloris.
Lloris would not be beaten from distance either, palming Young’s fine inswinging effort clear.
Rafael replaced Antonio Valencia at half-time and Spurs resumed on the attack with Christian Eriksen’s effort ricocheting around in the United box before being thumped clear.
Van Persie could only volley over from a Mata cross and he took out his frustrations on Vertonghen, pushing over the defender as the Belgian made a clearance.
With the game meandering midway through the second half, Townsend tried to enliven proceedings, hitting a swerving shot which De Gea held.
United were still creating – and spurning – good chances and Mata hopelessly fired well over from Rafael’s cross.
Tottenham’s defence was shaky but so, too, was United’s.
Townsend appealed in vain as he tussled with Young, already booked, for a through ball and De Gea saved from Federico Fazio.
United switched to 4-4-2 with 15 minutes to go, including three substitutes in the back four as Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw came on for Jonny Evans and Paddy McNair to join Rafael and Jones.
Spurs’ switches were more attacking but still they could not test De Gea.
Kane robbed Carrick and found the overlapping Mason, but the midfielder could not keep his shot down.