Manchester City squandered more points against West Ham on Saturday to leave them languishing in the lower half of the Premier League table as Manchester United and Chelsea played out a soggy stalemate.
Substitute Phil Foden rescued a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium but the disappointing result means Pep Guardiola’s team have taken just five points from their past four matches.
City remain favourites to snatch the Premier League title back from Liverpool but there are growing doubts over their ability to establish momentum in a topsy-turvy season for the ‘big six’.
Injury-hit City, without Fernandinho, Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake and Gabriel Jesus, dominated possession but rarely found top gear against West Ham in the early kick-off.
They are already five points behind leaders Everton, who play Southampton on Sunday, and look more vulnerable than at any time since Guardiola’s first season in charge.
West Ham went ahead against the run of play in the first half through Michail Antonio’s superb overhead kick from Vladimir Coufal’s cross.
Foden, who came on at half-time, restored parity minutes later, coolly controlling Joao Cancelo’s cross before slotting home.
But the visitors could not turn their dominance into goals, with West Ham indebted to Lukasz Fabianski, who produced some vital late saves.
A frustrated Guardiola said City were struggling with injuries and a hectic schedule.
“I would prefer to have results but we have to analyse where we are,” he said. “Many injuries, a lack of preparation, no recovery time, and tough games we’ve played so far.
“But the players gave everything on the pitch. Now we recover and think about the next game.”
There could be more grim injury news for Guardiola, who said Argentine forward Sergio Aguero, who has only recently returned after a long lay-off, had picked up a suspected hamstring injury.
– Cavani debut –
Edinson Cavani made his debut for Manchester United against big-spending Chelsea but the teams cancelled each other out in a 0-0 draw on a night of torrential rain at Old Trafford.
Both clubs are hoping to take advantage of sluggish starts by City and Liverpool but have themselves struggled to find any rhythm.
United’s previous two Premier League home games this season resulted in a 9-2 aggregate scoreline against them in defeats by Crystal Palace and Spurs.
Marcus Rashford had the best chance of the first half but Cesar Azpilicueta had a strong penalty appeal rejected when Harry Maguire wrestled him down at a Chelsea set-piece.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer threw on Paul Pogba and Cavani with just over half an hour to go and the Uruguayan nearly scored with his first touch.
Teenage forward Mason Greenwood entered the fray in the 83rd minute as United went for the win but neither side could break the deadlock, with Edouard Mendy making a fine late save to deny Marcus Rashford.
The result means United have failed to win any of their opening three home league games in a season for the first time since 1972/73.
They are 15th in the table but are just three points behind third-placed Leeds.
“We miss the fans, I must say,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “It is the same for all teams but I think everyone agrees that the edge has gone and I can’t wait to get the fans back.
“But I thought we were closest to winning the game, we kept a clean sheet and we have stopped the run of home defeats, although we wanted to win of course. I think it is a very good, solid week for us with two wins and a draw.”
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard felt his side should have been awarded a penalty.
“Without doubt it is a clear penalty. It’s not always clear for the referee but the VAR is there. Maguire got Azpilicueta in a headlock,” he said.
Earlier, goals from Jairo Riedewald and Wilfried Zaha in a 2-1 win for Crystal Palace condemned promoted Fulham to their fifth defeat in six matches.
Champions Liverpool face Sheffield United in the late-evening game, in their first Premier League encounter without Virgil van Dijk, who could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.