Arsene Wenger acknowledged the 5-1 thrashing by Liverpool at the weekend forced his Arsenal side to retreat into their shells to avoid defeat at all cost against Manchester United in the Premier League on Wednesday.
The Londoners would have gone top with a win against the champions but few chances were created in a disappointing 0-0 draw at the Emirates.
Former Arsenal favourite Robin van Persie almost stole victory for United with a late header that drew a breathtaking one-handed save from Wojciech Szczesny.
"Our defensive focus was extreme today because we conceded so many goals on Saturday. It was important not to lose tonight," manager Wenger told reporters.
"United restricted us to very few chances but our team was highly focused not to concede tonight and maybe that restricted our game going forward.
"We were certainly hit by the five goals we conceded on Saturday and you could feel that a little bit tonight. I think we were nervous where we are usually very dangerous breaking through the middle with speedy passing," the Frenchman added.
"We lost two points tonight but the point keeps us in the race."
Arsenal are second, one point behind Chelsea, while United are seventh, 15 points off the pace.
Wenger's side have taken just five points in six games against Chelsea, Manchester City (in third place), Liverpool (fourth) and United.
Arsenal let in four goals in the opening 20 minutes against Liverpool and Mikel Arteta's mistake after 90 seconds almost led to another early setback.
Szczesny, however, saved the home side from another terrible start by guessing the right way as Van Persie shot from close range with his favoured left foot.
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, who caused United captain Nemanja Vidic problems in the air all evening, missed a clear header from eight metres following a Santi Cazorla corner soon after.
Good chances, though, were few and far between in a dislocated and often frantic first half between two sides searching for their best form.
Mesut Ozil, Arsenal's 42 million pounds ($69.66 million) buy from Real Madrid in August, was more involved than at Anfield at the weekend.
"He was one of our best players," said Wenger.
Van Persie, returning to the club he represented for eight seasons, shot across goal when well placed after 18 minutes but United again failed to make the most of new midfield signing Juan Mata.
Jack Wilshere was at the core of most of Arsenal's best moments and received consistently rough treatment from the visitors.
United full back Rafael, injured in an aerial challenge with Giroud, was replaced by Rio Ferdinand for the second half which triggered a reshuffle of the back line but the match followed the same pattern of high tempo movement but little penetration and no end product.
Laurent Koscielny had a header from a corner cleared from under the United crossbar by Antonio Valencia after 63 minutes and Giroud narrowly failed to connect with a cross in front of goal.
Wayne Rooney, agitated and buzzing in the first half, all but disappeared in the second period before setting Van Persie up for his late header.
Arsenal were robbed of possession and suddenly Van Persie came to life. He fed Rooney and raced into the area where he met the England forward's cross with a meaty header which the Polish keeper pushed on to the bar and away.
David De Gea was then forced into a diving one-handed save to thwart Santi Cazorla late on and, as the 90 minutes ended, the United goalkeeper plunged to keep out another low effort from the Spaniard.
"We defended well throughout the game," said United manager David Moyes who singled out Ferdinand for particular praise.
"I'd have liked to have played better going forward. I thought we did a lot of good things in the game."
Moyes refused to accept United were out of the running for the Champions League places despite being 11 points behind fourth-placed Liverpool with 12 games to play.
"We will try and win the next game and try and pick it up. I believe the desire is still there, they are a great group of players," said the Scot.
"If there's one team that has been great at winning games in the second half of the season it's Manchester United."
Arsenal squandered the chance to return to the top of the Premier League when they failed to break down Manchester United in a goalless stalemate at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
The home side had the better chances against a listless United but their failure to win left Chelsea top on 57 points, one clear of Arsenal with 12 matches to play.
Tottenham Hotspur stayed fifth after a superb 4-0 win at Newcastle United following two goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and one each by Paulinho and Nacer Chadli.
The match at Craven Cottage between Fulham and Liverpool and the game at the Britannia Stadium between Stoke City and Swansea City both kicked off later.
The storms battering Britain claimed two of the six matches scheduled for Wednesday with Manchester City's home game against Sunderland and Everton's clash with Crystal Palace at Goodison Park postponed.
Arsenal and Manchester United played out a hard-fought goalless draw in the Barclays Premier League on Wednesday night.
The stalemate saw the Gunners move to 56 points from 25 matches, a point behind leaders Chelsea, while the Red Devils stay put in seventh place with 42 points.
Arsene Wenger's side, who came into the match after a 5-1 drubbing from Liverpool, looked a transformed side as they had the major share of the match.
They should have won convincingly but Giroud, Cazorla and Wilshere looked to have left their scoring boots at home.
Credit must also go to the Manchester United defence and in particular De Gea who was outstanding under the United goal.
United too had their moments but Van Persie squandered two golden chances early in the game.
But that apart it was Arsenal's game for the taking and Wenger will rue having missed three points and a chance to overtake Chelsea.
Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0
Arsenal have failed to take advantage Chelsea's draw at West Brom being held goalless by United.
The boos ring out from home fans at the Emirates Stadium as the final whistle goes.
Frustration for Arsenal who despite enjoying greater possession have to share points with United at the Emirates.
90" Cazorla's shot is well saved by De Gea.
89" Ozil squanders a free-kick just outside the United box.
87" Three minutes remain for the final whistle and Arsenal are all over the United goal but the goal continues to elude them.
88" YELLOW! Sagna is booked for a late challenge on Rooney.
84" De Gea makes a superb diving save off a Cazorla shot from close range after Giroud does well to keep possession and Ozil's sublime pass.
81" United make another change as Valencia makes way for Young.
78" Rooney and Van Persie break through the Arsenal defence. Rooney sends a superb ball for Persie who heads goalwards but Szczesny brings off a brilliant save.
77" Sagna measured a cross but Giroud is a bit late in getting his boot to the ball in front of an empty goal. .
74" Rosicky has a last-ditch try before being substituted by Oxlade-Chamberlain. United bring in Januzaj for Mata
72" YELLOW! Valencia is the first player to be booked for a tackle on Wilshere.
70" United lose their rhythm as Arsenal find theirs with Sagna making some dangerous runs down the right flank. Twenty minutes to go.
66" Mata tries an innocuous long range which goes too wide to trouble Szczesny.
65" Giroud glances a header wide rising to meet Wilshere's cross.
64" Gibbs crosses from the touchline and Giroud is again off target.
62" Koscielny rises to meet Cazorla's corner and it's flying into the top corner but Valencia heads it away from under the crossbar.
60" Yaya Sanogo, Oxford-Chamberlain and Podolski are all warming up.
57" Manchester United looked more settled now with Ferdinand adding more solidity to their defence. They seem to have more of the ball compared to the first half.
55" The first 10 minutes of the second half begins to drop in pace. Both teams content on ball possession.
54" Evra dribbbles his way past Sagna but just as he makes his move from the left into the box Sagna makes a timely tackle to put the ball out for a corner which United failed to make it count.
51" United have a spell of possession and work the ball out to Smalling on the right but his cross is too deep.
50" Ozil almost flicks a pass through to Giroud but Vidic cuts the ball out.
48" Ferdinand floats a long cross into the box to Van Persie who is dispossessed by Koscielny and Arsenal launch a counter attack.
47" Arsenal conceded an early free kick which is floated dangerously across the face of goal by Mata.
46" Arsenal get the game underway in the second half with United having made a change during half time with Ferdinand coming in for Rafael as Smalling moves to left back.
Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0
Wilshere and Giroud had decent chances, while Van Persie went close for United.
45+1" Ozil to Cazorla crosses for Giroud whose header is put out for a corner.
44" Arsenal make a sharp counter-attack and the ball breaks to Cazorla who slams his shot into the back of Wilshere.
42" Three minutes to go for half time and thought Arsenal have more of the ball possession United had two golden chances to go ahead.
41" Rafael is able to continue after a long spell of treatment but looks shaken though.
39" Rafael comes worse off following an aerial challenge with Giroud causing a stoppage in play.
36" Ozil floats the ball into the United box and Gibbs goes for the header and gets there but his feeble effort is collected by De Gea.
35" But the corner comes to nothing as Vidic heads clear from inside his six-yard box.
34" Gibbs earns a corner for Arsenal with his pace and energy.
32" Arteta free-kick is cleared easily by the United defenders.
31" Arsenal get a free kick after Wilshere is brought down by Cleverley.
29" Giroud fires over after Koscielny does well to steal the ball off Rooney on the edge of the area.
25" Giroud header off a Cazorla corner from the left just sails wide off the crosspiece.
21" Arsenal are finding it difficult to cut through the United's tight defence.
20" Cazorla plays a one-two with Wilshere but can't collect the return ball from the England international.
17" Van Persie beats the off-side trap but with the angle blocked, puts the ball to his right foot but is way off the target.
15" There have been three Arsenal attempts on goal and two for Man Utd in the first 15 mins at the Emirates.
10" Man United make a counter. Rafael crosses for Van Persie but is tackled well by Vidic.
9" Arsenal are on the offensive. Rosicky tries a long range which deflects off a defender but De Gea is alert.
6" The pace of the match is fast and Rooney earns United's first corner but it goes abegging.
4" Wilshere dribbles his way into United danger zone but makes a mess of his finish.
2" Van Persie capitalises from defensive lapse by Arsenal but fails to beat Szczesny.
Manchester City v Sunderland is off due to bad weather, BBC Sport reported.
Gibbs and Rosicky replace Monreal and Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arsenal while Man Utd bring in Valencia and Cleverly for Young and Fletcher.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Sanogo, Bendtner
Man United: De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick, Mata; Rooney, Van Persie.
Subs: Lindegaard, Büttner, Ferdinand, Fellaini, Young, Hernandez, Januzaj
Arsenal have won nine of their last 11 home matches in the Premier League.
Man Utd have won eight of their last 10 matches against Arsenal in all competitions.
Both teams are like to play a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Both reeling from embarrassing weekend results in the Premier League, Arsenal and Manchester United will each be determined to restore credibility when they meet at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
While Arsenal ceded first place to Chelsea after being blown away in a 5-1 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday, United could only record a 2-2 draw at home to Fulham, who had started the game at the foot of the table.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the match against United was the ideal chance to atone for the north London club's Merseyside "accident".
"It is always a disappointment to lose a game, but I think it was an accident because we have been very stable defensively and we have to treat it like that," the Frenchman said.
"We have just been on a 10-game unbeaten run. You cannot consider one game as the trend, the pattern of our season. "It is an accident, not a welcome (one) of course - a very disappointing one - but a successful season is decided by how you respond to that."
Wenger also spoke out in defence of record signing Mesut Ozil, who produced an anonymous performance at Liverpool that was in keeping with some below-par recent displays.
"He didn't have the best of games on Saturday, but that can happen," Wenger said of the Germany star.
"He works very hard to adapt to the physical level of the Premier League and for me he is an exceptional player. I wouldn't like to put too much pressure on him because he has been a top-class player until now.
"He knows when he is not good enough he will get questioned. That is normal."
Silver linings are not quite as easy to find for United, who trail fourth-place Liverpool by nine points and therefore seem destined to miss out on a place in next season's Champions League.
The defending champions dominated Sunday's game against Fulham at Old Trafford, enjoying 75 percent of possession and sending no fewer than 81 crosses into the visitors' box and would have prevailed had it not been for a 94th-minute equaliser scored by Fulham's Darren Bent.
Under pressure United manager David Moyes defended his side's tactics against bottom-of-the-table Fulham and expressed certainty that the club's luck would turn.
"Football does that sometimes and we have to make sure it doesn't happen too often, but I do think there have been a few twists this season and hopefully we'll get them back in the future," he said.
"You just continue doing the right things. We're doing the right things, we need to keep going and your luck will change, there's no doubt about that."
United won 1-0 when the sides met at Old Trafford in November and Arsenal have occasionally fallen short against their supposed peers this season.
Although they beat Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at home, they dropped points against Everton and Chelsea at the Emirates and were thrashed 6-3 away to Manchester City in mid-December.
Wenger's side currently find themselves amid a daunting run of games, with Sunday's FA Cup tie at home to Liverpool followed by the home leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against reigning champions Bayern Munich.
Arsenal must once again do without holding midfielder Mathieu Flamini due to suspension, while Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and January loan signing Kim Kallstrom remain unavailable due to injury.
Moyes, meanwhile, may elect to hand teenage winger Adnan Januzaj a start in place of Ashley Young on the left flank, having introduced him from the bench against Fulham.
The United manager said the draw against Fulham was "as bad as it gets", but he can draw encouragement from the club's impressive recent record in away games against Arsenal.
United have lost only twice on their last seven visits to the Emirates, winning three times and drawing twice.
Times have changed since their last trip, however. When United last went to Arsenal, in April last year, it was their first game since winning the Premier League title.