United saw a penalty overturned by VAR and City's best chance fell to Riyad Mahrez who saw his shot well saved by David de Gea.
What was clear from the first 45 minutes of the 183rd Manchester derby was the healthy respect between the two clubs.
City, wary of the pace United have in attack, were more conservative with the press so as not to get caught on the counter, while the Reds were anything but gung-ho, giving the opening period a cautious feel.
United had a couple of half-chances, but the best opportunity fell to City after a superb move ended with Gabriel Jesus breaking towards the box, finding Kevin De Bruyne who immediately played Riyad Mahrez who just had David de Gea to beat, but his low shot was saved by the Spaniard and De Bruyne fired the loose ball over.
So, a goalless first period and a tactical tussle with two teams determined not to concede first.
The second period started in far more explosive fashion when United were awarded a penalty just a couple of minutes in when Marcus Rashford went down after contact from Kyle Walker in the box.
The referee pointed to the spot, but VAR showed that Rashford had been offside in the build-up.
It was the correct decision but a let-off, nonetheless.
The tentative, probing nature of the game thereafter continued with both defences looking fairly comfortable and the only chances created snatched efforts.
City began to look threatening as the game entered the final quarter, but the pace was never breakneck.
Ultimately, it was a derby with little incident, but a decent point that both clubs probably would have settled for beforehand.
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a different city?
The City we have seen of late is perhaps one of the most defensively sound of the Pep Guardiola era.
It's rare to see a cautious approach by a Guardiola side, but there was a definite shift in tactics for this game, with a steely determination to limit United's attacking threat.
It meant a less adventurous City, with United happy to contain and take a point.
Six successive clean sheets is impressive by any standard and if defensive frailty was our Achilles heel last season, it certainly isn't this campaign.
If the goals can start to flow again this month and into the New Year, City will be in the thick of the title race come next May.
No fans, no intensity
Derby games are driven by supporters who, in turn lift and drive teams on.
A full Old Trafford would likely insisted United attacked more and took more chances - that would have possibly led to more openings and mistakes.
Hopefully, this will be the last Manchester derby without supporters because a derby without fans just doesn't feel like a derby.
John Stones takes the honours with another solid, confident and assured display, justifying his selection.
WHAT IT MEANS
City are eighth, five points behind leaders Spurs and Liverpool who both play later this weekend.
City are back in Premier League action on Tuesday with a home game against West Brom - kick-off 8pm.
The following Saturday, we travel to Southampton for a tricky-looking game at St Mary's Stadium (3pm kick-off).
“I don't know the feeling at home, but here we know we can show more intensity but when you attack they can punish you on the counter.
“We would love to have more chances, but we did have one against one with Mahrez.
“We have to build from here. Without spectators it looks like it lacks intensity but from the touchline, I see the players fight.
“It’s a good point. I would like to win, but okay, it’s Old Trafford we cannot forget.
“They are so fast upfront. It’s Manchester United. Most parts of the game we were good. We lacked a little bit chances to score, but we were good.”
“It was a difficult game, it always is for both sides, especially for us coming here.
“Obviously, there were no fans here, so it was a different atmosphere.
“We both didn’t create chances but both were very good defensively – it’s another clean sheet for us which is good.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t come away with more, but we fought so well and I’m proud of the boys pressing so well from the front. Coming away with a point, I think we have to be pleased
“Whoever we play it’s a challenge for us. It was a bit of a stalemate in many ways, but we can take a lot from the drive we showed.”
United: de Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes, Greenwood (Martial 74), Rashford
Substitutes: Bailly, Mata, Henderson, Telles, Matic, van de Beek
STATS & FACTS
Six successive clean sheets is a new Club record for City.
This was the first draw in nine meetings between the clubs.
There have been 150 top-flight Manchester derbies - United have won 58 and City 45, with 47 draws.
Pep Guardiola's side have kept three clean sheets in a row in the league for the first time since May 2019.
The most recent English player to score in a Premier League Manchester derby for City was James Milner in 2013.