Honours ended even in a Manchester derby that never threatened to live up the hype that preceded it
It crackled and fizzed off the pitch, positively coruscating in the stands where vitriol mixed with vitality and fanaticism rubbed shoulders with raw nerves.
But on it the play was reminiscent of a Champions League game. Plenty of short passing, passages of domination by both sides but not much end product.
It was a game in which creativity took a night off and allowed the defenders to shine. They all took their moment in the spotlight with aplomb.
Shorn of Mario Balotelli thanks to a brandished red card and the intransigence of the Football Association, City chief Roberto Mancini resorted to using Carlos Tevez as a single forward.
The former United idol likes nothing better than tormenting his former employees on the pitch but surging runs and tireless foraging found nothing but cul-de-sacs and the legs of United’s central defenders.
When the Argentine was not attempting to prod the behemoth in red with his quick feet and rapier thrusts then David Silva was trying to tease them with his clever movement, silky smooth ball retention and an eye for a pass.
After all the frustration of injury time and injurious goals last season, this was meant to be sweet viewing for a sell out City crowd that turned up the volume from the moment the Blue Moon was projected onto the scoreboards. But in the end they left shrugging shoulders and happy United hadn’t committed another grand larceny.
Any footballing globetrotter will know that the greater the anticipation the greater the letdown and so it was here
In truth the first half failed woefully to live up to expectation. Patrice Evra had United’s only on target shot safely pouched by the well placed and unruffled Hart whilst the beat Blues effort came from a Carlos Tevez’ free kick pushed around the post in spectacular fashion by Van der Sar.
There was promise from a barnstorming run from Yaya Toure who drove manfully at the heart of the Reds back four but neither goalkeeper could complain to their union of over work in the opening three-quarters of an hour.
Despite no shortage of effort or passion there was only one booking too though the perpetrator wasn’t a great shock. Paul Scholes the recipient of an ostentatious flourish of yellow from Chris Foy.
The second half was, surprisingly, much the same.
A game of cat and mouse after which both the pursuer and the pursued were left exhausted by the chase but ultimately dissatisfied by the ending
Dimitar Berbatov went closest with a spectacular scissor kick that he caught flush but which flew straight at Joe Hart.
David Silva had a shot blocked and Pablo Zabaleta lifted another effort over the bar for City but defences remained steadfastly on top.
Kompany and Toure and Vidic and Ferdinand can take a bow. None of the quartet put a foot wrong and with diligent midfielders in front of them it was an easy night to be a goalkeeper in the Manchester derby.