United were unable to secure the perfect send-off to Japan for the Club World Cup after being held to a goalless draw by Spurs at a soggy White Hart Lane.
The champions were strangely out-of-sorts for much of the game and were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession in a scrappy first half.
The game improved as a spectacle as the game wore on but the Reds found Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes in inspired form and missed out on the chance to close the gap on Liverpool at the top.
United would have been spurred on before kick-off by news of the leaders’ home draw with Hull, and a stronger-than-anticipated line-up took to the field at White Hart Lane.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s pre-match injury fears did not materialise as Cristiano Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov all started, the latter two against their former club.
Berbatov was booed by the home fans every time he touched the ball and struggled to impose himself on the game, although his link-up play often threatened to open Spurs up.
Ji-sung Park, making his 100th United appearance, had an early shot which took a deflection and looped just over his former PSV team-mate Gomes’ bar.
David Bentley then tried his luck with a left-footed volley from 25 yards, but Edwin van der Sar was alert to parry the effort.
Spurs, already without injured captain Ledley King, suffered another blow after 10 minutes when Jonathan Woodgate was forced off after jarring his knee and was replaced by Tom Huddlestone.
But the home side’s depleted defence contained United well for the majority of the first half. On a