|1||Van der Sar|
United may not have followed the leads of Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs in the Champions League's last-16 ties, but the Reds remain favourites to reach the quarter-finals after this stalemate with a decent if unambitious Marseille side.
Goalscoring chances were few and far between on a disappointing night at Stade Velodrome, and Sir Alex Ferguson will hope for more from his attacking players when the battle continues at Old Trafford in a fortnight's time - while asking his defence to remain just as solid against the threat of the dreaded away goal for Marseille.
The United boss recalled eight big guns at the back and in attack for the first leg, but he picked two thirds of the same midfield which laboured to victory over Crawley Town in the FA Cup – Darron Gibson and Michael Carrick – and retained John O’Shea in defence.
Marseille made an aggressive start straight from the kick-off, in both senses of the word - Gabriel Heinze lunged at Nani and Loic Remy fired the first wild shot across United’s bows, both inside the first 60 seconds. Nani was closer with his opening crack at goal when Dimitar Berbatov teed up him just outside the box, although again the goalkeeper wasn’t troubled.
Playing on the right of a front three, Nani was putting the home side on the rack in the early stages with his surges beyond Heinze. When one such streak drew a foul and Nani’s free-kick was only half cleared, Darren Fletcher drove a first-time shot through a ruck of players; Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda saw it late but pulled off a fine save.
After a lively opening, the game’s tempo dipped to a more typical level for a European match. Less characteristic was United’s use of the ball – or rather misuse with sloppy passes from central midfield handing