LONDON (AFP) - Manchester United squandered an opportunity to put pressure on English Premier League pace-setters Chelsea and Manchester City, after being held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Louis van Gaal's side created a string of chances, with Juan Mata hitting the woodwork and Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris producing a number of excellent saves, but had to settle for a point.
The draw extended United's unbeaten run to nine games but left them on 36 points, nine below Chelsea and six behind City, both of whom play later. Tottenham are five points further back in sixth place.
United manager van Gaal kept faith with the team that had beaten Newcastle 3-1 on Boxing Day and he saw his side completely dominate the first half at a sunny but chilly White Hart Lane.
Lloris saved from Radamel Falcao, twice, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, while Mata hit the post with a deflected free kick and Phil Jones was denied by an offside flag after squeezing a header over the line.
United lost Antonio Valencia to injury at half-time, with Rafael da Silva coming on, but continued to make chances. Mata crossed for van Persie to volley over and later spooned a cut-back from Rafael into the stands.
But Spurs took control as the game wore on, with United goalkeeper David de Gea saving from Andros Townsend, Federico Fazio and Christian Eriksen, while Harry Kane cleverly teed up Ryan Mason to fire over.
Chelsea will look to defend their three-point advantage at the top of the table later on Sunday when they visit fourth-place Southampton. Second-place Manchester City host second-bottom Burnley.
Meanwhile, third-bottom Crystal Palace will begin life without sacked manager Neil Warnock when they travel to Queens Park Rangers, where caretaker coach Keith Millen will be in charge of the visiting side.