Despite his side having previously matched leaders Manchester City stride for stride, United manager Jose Mourinho resorted to familiar spoiling tactics that meant his team registered just one shot on target.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have now won just once in eight matches, but this was a brighter showing on a balmy Merseyside afternoon, with Joel Matip and Emre Can going close either side of half-time.
“I was waiting for Jurgen to change,” Mourinho said by way of explanation.
“I was waiting for him to bring on (Daniel) Sturridge or (Dominic) Solanke and keep his attacking players, but he changed player by player and kept the strong midfield.
“That midfield today was stronger than my midfield. I had (Ander) Herrera and (Nemanja) Matic and nobody on the bench to make it different.
“The second half was a bit of chess, but my opponent didn’t open the door for me to win the game.”
The second successive goalless draw between the teams at Anfield preserved United’s seven-point advantage over Liverpool in the table.
The result meant United fell short of setting their best ever points tally after eight games of a Premier League campaign, although they have now gone seven games without defeat against their eternal rivals.
It was not the celebration Klopp would have wanted on the second anniversary of his appointment as Liverpool manager and he currently has only one more point than his predecessor Brendan Rodgers had at the moment he was sacked.
“Manchester United came here for a point and got it,” said Klopp, who was missing key forward Sadio Mane through injury.
“For sure you could not play this way at Liverpool, but it’s OK for Manchester United.”
– Dazzling De Gea –
Klopp felt United striker Romelu Lukaku could have been shown a red card after catching the prone Dejan Lovren in the face with his boot in a first-half tussle, although replays suggested the contact was accidental.
He also said Philippe Coutinho should have been awarded a penalty after being tripped by Ander Herrera on the edge of the United box in the second half.
“I felt the referee should have given us a penalty,” Klopp said.
“Then, maybe, it was a red card with the Lukaku and Lovren situation. Two situations, with different outcomes producing maybe a different result.”
Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish was present at Anfield for the inauguration of the stand that now bears his name and with United retreating from kick-off, he saw his team have plenty of the ball.
United’s shackling of Liverpool’s front three meant Georginio Wijnaldum found himself with space to attack and he tested visiting goalkeeper David de Gea twice in the first 15 minutes.
It took a dazzling stop from De Gea to keep the scoreline blank in the 34th minute, the Spaniard jutting out his left foot to block Matip’s close-range volley from Roberto Firmino’s cross.
After pinching the ball off Coutinho’s toes, Mohamed Salah thrashed the rebound wide of the left-hand post.
Obliged to plough a lone furrow up front for United, Lukaku endured a frustrating first half and should have been booked for cleaning out Joe Gomez with a late challenge.
But he almost put United ahead against the run of play following a slick exchange involving Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, only for Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to parry.
Liverpool procured their second big chance 11 minutes into the second half when Joe Gomez’s cross from the right fell invitingly for Can, who could do no better than hoist a volley into the Kop from six yards out.
Liverpool fashioned two last openings in stoppage time, but after leaping to meet corners from substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, neither Lovren nor Matip could keep their headers down.