No wonder the title race is effectively over. If Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho bothered to tune in to this clash of two former superpowers, he will have seen little to unsettle his champions elect from their lofty perch.
For this was less the Battle of the Buffet, more squabbling over the scraps
left dangling from Chelsea's title table.
Not that it was without intrigue, with the two clubs left trailing in the
Blues' wake competing among themselves for Champions League qualification.
But this goalless draw simply enabled Mourinho's side to retain a 13-point
lead over United, with Arsenal now 'only' 24 points adrift.
A point at Highbury is no mean feat for any visitors but this was still where
Chelsea secured all three only last month.
With Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira missing from the line-ups the sheer
intensity of their direct confrontations was lacking.
Instead, it was more of a cautious affair in which, at times, football even
broke out - but only briefly.
Arsenal played a three-man midfield, echoing not only their FA Cup final
victory but also their unsuccessful attempt to stifle Chelsea's midfield a few
With United missing not only Keane, but also Paul Scholes and Alan Smith, that
ensured the Gunners dominated most of the first half, with the visitors
struggling to make any real impact.
Not that Arsenal, for all their defensive solidity, managed to carve out any
more than a handful of openings but they still looked dangerous when they
managed to sweep forward at full pace.
Cesc Fabregas rifled one shot just wide, Edwin van der Sar foiled Robert Pires
at the near post and Thierry Henry's curling free-kick had the Dutchman
frantically scrambling along his line as it whizzed past the post.
There was less spite than usual, with the only real flashpoint coming when
Ryan Giggs fouled Jose Antonio Reyes and the Spaniard's overblown theatrics
ensured a booking for the United winger.
United, meanwhile, offered nothing as an attacking force until two minutes
before the interval, when Ruud van Nistelrooy suddenly unleashed a fierce shot
towards the far corner of the net.
He was denied by a fine one-handed save by Jens Lehmann, but the rebound still
fell invitingly into the path of Cristiano Ronaldo, only for the Portugal
international to balloon his shot into the crowd.
United's influence continued to grow after the restart, with Wayne Rooney
looping a header just wide, while Ronaldo picked out Giggs with a deep cross
only for the winger to volley wildly into the crowd.
Van Nistelrooy was not much closer when Rio Ferdinand's astute through-ball
enabled him to beat the offside trap and Arsenal were indebted to Kolo Toure as
he slid in to deny the Dutchman.
Lauren repeated the feat soon afterwards and Arsenal were finally prompted
into a response.
Pires stretched to reach Henry's cross-shot at close range but Van der Sar
just managed to smother the ball, while Gary Neville appeared to catch Fabregas
from behind at the same time as making contact with the ball inside the area.
No penalty though, referee Graham Poll decided.
The action, meanwhile, continued, with Rooney's temper bubbling to the
surface, while Neville was just inches wide as he slid in at the far post to
meet a low cross.
Both managers made substitutions in a bid to clinch victory, with Park Ji-Sung
and Dennis Bergkamp, as well as Mathieu Flamini and Emmanuel Eboue, all brought
However, neither club has the depth of resources enjoyed by Mourinho and when
Eboue cleared Wes Brown's header off the line in the final minute, it was
confirmed as Mourinho's night.
These days, Chelsea are simply a class apart from all the rest. Indeed, on
this evidence, they can win prosper when they are not playing.