After serving a two-match ban for swearing, United's Rooney returns to the thick of the action [AFP]

A goalless draw at St James' Park kept alive the race for the English Premier League title as Manchester United failed to break through the Newcastle defence on Tuesday.

United wasted an opportunity to move nine points clear of second-placed Arsenal, and failed to bounce back from the disappointment of their weekend FA Cup semifinal loss to rivals Manchester City.

United strikers Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney were denied by goalkeeper Tim Krul in the first half, while Ryan Giggs squandered a good chance after the break when he curled the ball wide.

Frustration

Newcastle dominated possession for large parts of the match with Peter Lovenkrands squandering their best opening with a header in the first half.

United, who have now won only five of their 17 away games in the league this season, could have taken the lead in under two minutes when Hernandez latched onto a low cross from Rooney but his close-range effort was smothered by goalkeeper Krul.

Results & fixtures

Tuesday April 19

 Newcastle 0-0 Man Utd

Wednesday April 20

 Chelsea v Birmingham
 Tottenham v Arsenal

Newcastle's hopes of getting a first home win against United since 2001, showed early promise with Jonas Gutierrez, Joey Barton and Shola Ameobi all failing to take their chances.

The best opportunity of the half, however, fell to Rooney - restored to the side after serving a two-match ban for swearing into a TV camera - when he burst through the middle but lifted his shot over the bar with just the keeper to beat.

Newcastle had appeals for a penalty turned down after the break when Lovenkrands was sent tumbling by Anderson before Giggs somehow miscued from eight metres with the goal gaping midway through the second half.

The Reds pressed for a winner, introducing former Newcastle captain Michael Owen to a chorus of home boos, but they struggled to break down the home defence and Hernandez was booked for a stoppage-time dive when attempting to con referee Lee Probert into a late penalty.

The result moves Newcastle above Aston Villa to ninth on goal difference with 40 points from 33 games.

United have five matches left in pursuit of a record 19th English league title.

Source: Agencies