United favourites after stale-mate in Marseille

Marseille 0 Manchester United 0

Manchester United will have no safety net at Old Trafford in three weeks' time after they ground out a goalless draw in their Champions League last-16 first leg meeting with Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.

United have failed to clinch victory from similar positions before.

However, they will still be favourites to progress against a limited Marseille outfit, even if life would have been so much better had a Darren Fletcher snap-shot been able to break the deadlock in a drab contest.

Ferguson sprang a pre-match surprise when he opted to select Darron Gibson ahead of Paul Scholes.

Presumably, the United boss was looking to utilise Gibson's extra energy in midfield, where he had already been deprived of Anderson and Park Ji-sung, two of seven first-team stars to miss the trip.

To that end, the Irishman did his job during a pretty poor first half.

However, given shooting from long-range is such a significant part of Gibson's game, it was strange that he should elect to pass rather than go for goal after an intricate move had set him up on the angle of the penalty area.

It was one of the few moments of invention as United treated what appeared to be limited opponents with caution.

Brandao went for goal with an overhead kick after taking Gabriel Heinze's cross down on his chest. However, not only was the Brazilian's effort nothing like Wayne Rooney's wonder strike, it didn't even match that of Crawley's Matt Tubbs at Old Trafford on Saturday.

After making his peace with Ferguson and United yesterday with his contrite admission of regret, Heinze engaged in a running battle with in-form Nani that he just about emerged on top from.

The Portugal winger did blaze one early effort over and he was involved in United's best chance of the half.

It was not in the way he would have wanted though as his woeful corner was only half-cleared to Fletcher.

The Scot had little time to pick his spot. But the shot was clean enough and as it left his boot, keeper Steve Mandanda initially appeared wrong-footed. Mandanda is clearly blessed with quick feet though, and was able to get back in position to make the save before the ball crossed his goal-line.

Marseille offered little evidence of how they won the French title last season.

It eventually came at the start of the second period, when Lucho Gonzalez seized on Berbatov's failure to control deep inside the United half and whipped over a curling cross for Brandao, whose firm header was directed straight at Edwin Van der Sar.

Marseille drew confidence from that effort though and pressed forward, with Andre Ayew in the thick of the action.

The Ghana international started with an attempted volley that he smashed high in the air.

Ayew then had a shot blocked before a kind bounce from Lucho's deflected effort provided a clear sight at goal.

The angle was not great though and with Brandao charging in at the far-post, Ayew seemed caught in two minds and in the end neither threatened United's goal or to pick out his team-mate.

Through all this, Scholes remained on the bench, a passive spectator, the debate in his mind about whether he could make a meaningful contribution next season doubtless continuing.

He was eventually introduced for Gibson with just 18 minutes remaining.

Scholes' willingness to get hold of the ball instantly brought some direction to United's attacks.

Berbatov fed Patrice Evra, then continued his run to collect a return pass from the full-back before firing a long-range effort over.

Berbatov almost managed to thread a pass through to Nani but Mandanda pounced.

What appeared to be a golf ball was thrown into the United area as they set themselves up to defend a Marseille corner three minutes from the end.

Uefa might take a dim view of that, although if nothing else it provided a talking point as a desperately disappointing contest petered out.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world