Manchester United failed to score at Old Trafford for the second successive game as a 0-0 draw against West Ham United dropped them to fourth place in the Premier League on Saturday.
Louis van Gaal’s side have now drawn a blank five times at home in all competitions this season, threatening their chances of regaining the domestic title and progressing in Europe.
United, missing injured captain and top scorer Wayne Rooney with an ankle injury, created several chances, but lacked a cutting edge in a dour encounter that will heap further pressure on van Gaal, who has been widely criticised for his conservative tactics.
A repeat of this spluttering effort at Wolfsburg on Tuesday could prove disastrous in a game they need to win to be sure of progressing in the Champions League.
United at least head to Germany with their unbeaten home record in the Premier League intact, although West Ham will also point to missed chances that cost them the chance to win for the first time in five games and add United to their list of scalps away from home this season which includes Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.
The inclusion of Marouane Fellaini in place of Rooney gave a different dimension to United’s attack and the Belgium international was heavily involved as van Gaal’s side looked for the early goal which would have eased the pressure.
Fellaini had already dragged a shot wide following a run from half-way when he went close in the eighth minute with a header from Paddy McNair’s cross which might have found the top corner but for a deflection off Winston Reid.
That intervention was nothing, though, compared with the block Reid made in denying what looked like a certain goal after a quarter of an hour.
Again Fellaini was instrumental with a header from Jesse Lingard’s cross which picked out Anthony Martial, who thought he had scored with a shot on the turn from eight yards out which Reid bravely kept out as he threw himself in front of the ball.
The visitors were lively on the break and should have led through an 11th-minute opportunity for Victor Moses.
Daley Blind’s attempted pass found Hammers captain Mark Noble, who released Moses for a clear run of goal.
However, the winger was unable to beat David de Gea who saved with his left leg and then moments later saw a Reid header from a corner hit a post as his record of conceding only one Premier League goal at Old Trafford this season was preserved.
United’s home defensive record is their best at this stage of a season since 1994-95, but their goal continued to live a charmed life at the start of the second half as West Ham, growing in confidence while United’s appeared to wane, again should have gone front.
Mauro Zarate was the culprit this time as Andy Carroll’s perfect lay-off left the Argentinian with just the goalkeeper to beat, but from six yards he screwed his effort horribly wide.
United almost made the most of that let-off as Fellaini was denied at the other end by a superb save from Adrian.
With 20 minutes to go, Juan Mata shot wide and Bastian Schweinsteiger lashed a first-time effort over the bar as the home side upped the tempo in search of a late winner.
But Martial steering an effort just past the post from substitute Memphis Depay’s pull-back was the nearest they came to a winner as another Old Trafford date ended in frustration for the home supporters.