Manchester - Jose Mourinho's fears that a gruelling schedule
could prove problematic for Manchester United were confirmed in a drab 0-0 draw
against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
The first of nine fixtures to come in April ended with
United having to settle for a draw at Old Trafford for the eighth time in the
Premier League this season.
Without six key players due to injury and suspension, it was
a sign that United's taxing campaign may finally be catching up with them as
they attempt to secure a place in next season's Champions League.
United remain fifth, four points behind fourth placed
Manchester City, who face Arsenal on Sunday.
United's first half domination was near total although, for
all their possession, the home side failed to force goalkeeper Ben Foster into
a noteworthy save.
Anthony Martial came closest to a breakthrough, just before
the half hour, when he rose powerfully at the far post to meet a Jesse Lingard
cross with a strong header that flew over the cross-bar.
But, with Albion often packing all 11 players well inside
their own half, United lacked the inspiration to break down Tony Pulis'
It might have been a different story had Lingard succeeded
with a ninth minute shot that flew over after a committed run by Martial saw
the ball deflected to him.
And Martial also came close on 19 minutes after Michael
Carrick sparked another wave of attacks by squaring to Lingard who moved the
ball to his French team mate for a shot which curled just wide.
Eric Bailly also almost capitalised after Hal Robson-Kanu
stumbled as he attempted to clear a Henrikh Mkhitaryan corner and, as the
club's record goalscorer Wayne Rooney watched from the United bench, Mourinho's
side struggled to break the deadlock.
As the half-time whistle blew, Carrick and Martial protested
loudly to referee Mike Dean, the latter pointing to a lump on his face that
appeared to be the result of a challenge in the final minute from West Brom's
Dean waved the players away and took no action, however, as
United supporters echoed their players' frustrations by booing the referee off
There was a first moment of genuine concern for United on 51
Dawson's run to the right-hand by-line ended with the
defender pulling the ball back for former United midfielder Darren Fletcher
whose shot was charged down by Bailly.
United responded quickly, with Martial setting up Mkhitaryan
who was crowded out only for the ball to break kindly to Marouane Fellaini who
threaded a shot through a crowded area but wide of the goal.
The game was finally opening up and Fellaini's pass set up
Martial for a low 25-yard shot which missed the right-hand post by inches.
A rare Albion error, from a misplaced pass from Gareth
McAuley, let in Mkhitaryan but his attempt to chip over Foster lacked power and
the keeper was able to reach out and save.
And Foster was again called into action, this time from a
ferocious 25-yard shot from Rashford which forced the Albion number one into an
impressive and acrobatic flying save.
By now, United supporters had long been calling for the
introduction of Rooney and received their wish on 74 minutes when he was
brought on to replace Mkhitaryan.
But Rooney made little impact as, Rashford, again from long
range, sent a low shot just wide and then the youngster forced Foster into a
magnificent save from a 25-yard free-kick.
In between, there was one more moment of anxiety for United
as Fletcher's long-range shot was fumbled by De Gea who was relieved to see the
ball strike the bar and rebound to safety.