The four Manchester derbies last season served up enough drama to last a lifetime; the first instalment for 2010/11 was tepid in comparison and finished goalless.
A cagey first-half gave way to more entertainment in the second, but only just. In the end, neither side took enough risks to win the game. City, in particular, were devoid of attacking ambition in front of their home crowd and Reds goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar later revealed he thought Roberto Mancini's men had played for a draw.
Despite the stalemate, Sir Alex's men remain unbeaten and in second place on the Barclays Premier League table, now four points behind leaders Chelsea. The Londoners beat Fulham 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
The Reds had been rocked by illness in the days preceding the game, yet many of those hit hardest started at Eastlands. This was a Manchester derby, after all: nobody was going to surrender easily.
One man who failed to pass a late fitness test, though, was Ryan Giggs. The 36-year-old has been nursing a hamstring strain recently and was conspicuous in his absence on Tuesday night: until now, Giggs had played in every single Manchester derby – 33 of them – since making his United debut in 1991.
The Reds' width at Eastlands came from Ji-sung Park, fresh from two goals against Wolves on Saturday, and Nani, sufficiently recovered from the groin strain he picked up in Bursaspor. But neither they nor Dimitar Berbatov, making his 100th Reds appearances, saw much of the ball in the opening exchanges.