Manchester United missed the chance to close the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea as the champions were held to a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa on Saturday.
In a game of few chances, the best fell to Ashley Young but the Villa winger twice missed and the home side also had a penalty claim rejected for Nemanja Vidic's tug on Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Despite the incentive of Chelsea's 0-0 draw against Newcastle earlier Saturday, United were unusually subdued and Cristiano Ronaldo showed his frustration when he was substituted eight minutes from time, gesticulating to the crowd.
The result leaves United still eight points off top spot with a game in hand and in danger of surrendering their title.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was able to field a stronger side than he might have imagined, with Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney both passed fit to play.
United were defending a 22-game unbeaten sequence against the home side, and were also looking for their 12th successive win at Villa Park.
Villa boss Martin O'Neill, painfully aware of his side's poor record and mindful of United's threat on the counter-attack, played it cautiously from the off with Gabriel Agbonlahor the lone striker ahead of a five-man midfield.
United sat back and allowed Villa to probe in the opening stages and Agbonlahor had a sniff of an early chance.
The Rooney-Carlos Tevez combination almost paid off after 15 minutes when a raking pass from the England striker picked out Tevez in the penalty box, but he couldn't shake off a determined Gareth Barry.
Van Der Sar fielded a low show from Nigel Reo-Coker as Villa continued to call the tune.
James Milner dragged another free-kick wide after Ronaldo barged into Stilian Petrov and United fans, frustrated by an untypically reserved display, urged their side to attack.
Ronaldo had another free-kick opportunity after Steve Sidwell tripped Park Ji-Sung, but it was another disappointing effort. He beat the wall, but prodded his shot wide.
Park missed a golden chance to give United a lead they barely deserved after 38 minutes. The Korean was put clear by Rooney, but delayed his shot and allowed Young to make a brilliant saving tackle.
Within a minute, Tevez was a whisker away from sliding home Rooney's far post cross as United finally warmed to their task before Vidic just failed to head home a Ryan Giggs free-kick.
Tevez worked himself a shooting opportunity at the end of the first-half, but his left-foot effort from 18 yards was straight at Brad Friedel.
Van Der Saar was forced into the game' first meaningful save three minutes after the break. The Dutchman's fingertips prevented Young's curling effort from 25 yards from creeping in to the top corner.
It sparked a brief flurry of pressure from Villa as they looked to regain the tempo they had at the start of the first-half.
Loud home appeals for a penalty when Vidic felled Agbonlahor after 59 minutes were controversially waved away by referee Chris Foy, even though the Irishman was clearly shirt-pulling.
But it was Rooney who should have put United ahead after 62 minutes. The striker was fed in by Michael Carrick, and had the goal at his mercy, but blazed over.
Ferguson, sensing two points slipping away, replaced the fading Tevez with Nani for the final twenty minutes.
Villa threatened again when Young forced another save from Van Der Sar but the match petered out in stalemate.
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