first half, and the fact that referee Nicola Rizzoli blew his whistle as soon as the clock hit 45 minutes was telling.
The second half followed a similar pattern, although United’s opportunities in front of goal became slightly more clear-cut. Javier Hernandez missed a glorious chance to put the Reds in front when Kagawa’s cross bobbled up on the six-yard line and Chicharito blazed his shot over the bar.
After 63 minutes David Moyes made a double substitution, replacing Rooney and Hernandez with van Persie and Ashley Young, while Kagawa shifted inside to play more centrally. The change almost had an immediate impact as Kagawa burst forward and slipped a pass to Young, who crossed to the far post where van Persie smashed a shot against the woodwork. The Dutchman went close again seconds later when a left-footed 20-yard drive skidded past the post.
Those three players again combined in the 69th minute as Young played a one-two with Kagawa and went down in the box under the challenge of Markel Bergara to earn a penalty. Van Persie stepped up and struck with plenty of power but his effort rebounded off the post.
Substitute Xabi Prieto also almost made a telling impact from the bench when his shot deflected off Vela and went just past De Gea’s top corner.
The game was petering out by the time Fellaini’s trip on David Zurutuza earned him a second booking, having earlier fouled Bergara, and he was sent off. Still, with Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverkusen also drawing 0-0 in Ukraine, the Reds remain top of Group A and occupy a commanding position to secure qualification for the knockout stages.