Match ends, Manchester United 0, Chelsea 0.
Manchester United provided some respite for manager Louis van Gaal with a much-improved performance as they were held to a draw by Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal's future was shrouded in uncertainty after a run of four straight defeats - and while a draw offers minor relief, United were still unable to secure the victory the 64-year-old Dutchman so desperately needs.
United's luck was out as both Juan Mata and Anthony Martial struck the woodwork inside the first 15 minutes and only a brilliant reflex save from Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois stopped Ander Herrera from six yards after the break.
Chelsea, under the temporary control of Van Gaal's fellow countryman Guus Hiddink, had chances of their own and United needed the brilliance of keeper David de Gea as he saved athletically from John Terry's early header then made a double save from Pedro and Cesar Azpilicueta after the break.
And as United ran out of momentum and ideas - although they were unlucky not to get a penalty when Willian handled - Nemanja Matic missed the best chance of the game when he raced clear, only to shoot hopelessly over the top.
Van Gaal feels Old Trafford support
The merchandisers outside Old Trafford may have been hawking scarves proclaiming Jose Mourinho as the next Manchester United manager, but those inside 'The Theatre Of Dreams' gave their embattled manager commendable support.
Few Mourinho scarves were on view and Van Gaal was able to acknowledge warm applause from plenty of United fans as he made his way from the tunnel at the Stretford End to his technical area before kick-off.
United's vibrant start, out of character with the timidity of recent weeks, instantly lifted the spirits and volume of support that were out-of-sorts and subdued before the start, and the fans remained solidly behind their team throughout.
There was certainly no hostility on view towards Van Gaal, although there were some signs of frustration as the game edged into the last 20 minutes with no sign of a breakthrough.
The final whistle was greeted with some jeers but this was more out of frustration that United could not find a winner, which also saw Wayne Rooney miss a late chance.
Van Gaal's name was not heard in any chants but there was no groundswell of hostility towards the United manager fighting for his job.
Daring Manchester United
Van Gaal complained that United did not "dare" to play football in the Boxing Day defeat at Stoke City - suggesting they were so gripped by fear and a lack of confidence in the current slump that they were simply unable to play their natural game.
Here, for the first hour at least, United delivered the sort of swift attacking football Old Trafford demands and a level of performance that would not have Van Gaal in such a hole had it been reproduced regularly this season.
United had more chances here than in their previous six games and was in stark contrast to a run that has left them without a win since the 2-1 victory at Watford on 21 Nov.
They were desperately unlucky that the woodwork denied Mata and Martial - but the sign of that fragile confidence was shown in the way they ran out of ideas and inspiration in the last 30 minutes.
Hiddink must earn his money
When Guus Hiddink walked in at Chelsea in February 2009 to succeed the sacked Luiz Felipe Scolari, it was simply a case of keeping a well-drilled and experienced side ticking over and perhaps adding a dash of his own quality and experience.
It worked well as the 69-year-old Dutchman guided Chelsea to an FA Cup final win against Everton, and the Blues were only denied a place in the Champions League final against Manchester United by a goal deep into injury time by Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.
Hiddink had a perfectly-tuned Chelsea side built around the spine of keeper Petr Cech, captain John Terry, midfield marksman Frank Lampard and a match-winning striker in Didier Drogba.
Not so this time - and Hiddink will need all his acumen to revitalise a Chelsea side struggling to find any of the power, rhythm and fluency that made them Premier League champions in May.
Terry is willing but reaching the end of his career, while inspiration is in short supply elsewhere despite the presence of players such as Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar.
He also has to prove he still possesses his old authority after a barren spell in his career with failures in charge of Russia, Turkey and in a second spell with the Netherlands.
In other words, Hiddink has a serious job on his hands.
Man of the match: David de Gea (Manchester United)
The stats you need to know
- Manchester United have now gone eight games without victory in all competitions, their worst run since January 1990 (also eight games).
- Louis van Gaal has overseen 11 goalless draws as Manchester United boss, six of those coming since 27 October.
- Guus Hiddink has not lost any of his last five competitive contests with Louis van Gaal (W4 D1).
- The Red Devils have kept seven clean sheets and conceded just three goals in their nine Premier League home games in 2015-16.
- The Blues are unbeaten in their last six Premier League meetings with Man Utd (W3 D3).
- This is United's lowest points total after 19 games of a league season since 1990 (22 points then, 30 this season).
What they said
Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink: "On the one hand, I am happy with a point because we had a difficult game, but on the other, we had two big chances to get three points. We were lacking some attacking players and had to adapt. In general I'm happy.
"Matic tells me when everyone expects him to make a goal, he doesn't and the other way round. I told him that I didn't expect him to score, so why didn't he?
"The team is showing ambition to get away from the relegation zone as soon as possible."
Manchester United host Swansea on Saturday, 2 January while Chelsea travel to Crystal Palace on the following day.
- 1de Gea
- 12SmallingBooked at 39mins
- 17BlindSubstituted forJonesat 81'minutes
- 36DarmianSubstituted forBorthwick-Jacksonat 70'minutes
- 28SchneiderlinBooked at 30mins
- 31SchweinsteigerBooked at 81mins
- 8MataSubstituted forDepayat 77'minutes
- 10RooneyBooked at 90mins
- 12MikelBooked at 27mins
- 22WillianSubstituted forSantos do Nascimentoat 70'minutes
- 8OscarSubstituted forLoftus-Cheekat 90+3'minutes
- 10E HazardBooked at 72mins
- 7Santos do Nascimento
- Martin Atkinson
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Manchester United 0, Chelsea 0.
Foul by Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United).
Pedro (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Chelsea. Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaces Oscar.
Foul by Anthony Martial (Manchester United).
César Azpilicueta (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).
Oscar (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is too high. Assisted by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson with a cross.
Foul by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Manchester United).
Ramires (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United).
John Obi Mikel (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Manchester United. Phil Jones replaces Daley Blind.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United).
Nemanja Matic (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Manchester United. Memphis Depay replaces Juan Mata.