Manchester United have the advantage in their Champions League tie with Marseille despite a goalless draw in the first leg on Wednesday.
Alex Ferguson’s side had the better chances to win the game but United will be confident of overcoming their French opponents when the two meet at Old Trafford on March 15 – even without finding a crucial away goal at the Stade Velodrome.
The visitors made the brighter start to the game and attacked with purpose, with Nani shooting wide after Dimitar Berbatov’s neat lay-off and Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney sending in menacing crosses which United failed to capitalise on.
Nani then earned a free-kick after theatrically throwing himself to the turf following Souleymane Diawara’s foul.
And while the Portuguese winger sent the ball straight into the wall, Fletcher’s follow-up drive forced Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandana into a smart save low down to his right.
Both sides tried to stamp their authority on the game with extended periods of possession but neither United nor Marseille created much in the way of chances.
Gabriel Heinze, who played under Ferguson for three years and left United in 2007, clipped in a cross that Brazilian striker Brandao acrobatically sent towards goals but it proved no trouble for Edwin van der Sar.
Striker Andre Ayew then caught van der Sar napping as his corner almost flew directly in at the near post, but the veteran Dutchman recovered to smother the ball as the first half petered out.
Marseille began the second 45 minutes with more intent, knowing they had to make the most of their home advantage in front of a vocal crowd inside the Stade Velodrome.
Brandao stooped to connect with Lucho Gonzalez’s cross but could only direct his header straight at van der Sar, while moments later the striker was inches away from connecting with Ayew’s powerful low cross.
United were on the back-foot and their midfield struggled to contain the lively Gonzalez, who was pulling all the strings for the hosts – but the Argentine just couldn’t find the killer pass.
Ayew pulled a left-foot strike across goal in the 62nd minute, but it went well wide of lurking team-mate Brandao at the far post.
The injection of veteran Paul Scholes to replace Darron Gibson in midfield with 20 minutes remaining inevitably had little effect on the scoreline.
Berbatov tried his luck from distance as the visitors looked to get back into the match, while Frenchman Patrice Evra – booed throughout after his involvement in France’s World Cup fiasco – threatened down the left.
But while the Premier League side nor Marseille could break the deadlock, advantage belongs to United for the second leg as their dreams of another treble-winning season continue.