Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno leaps into action during Saturday’s English Premier League match against Manchester United at Emirates Stadium in London. United failed to breach Leno’s defenses in the 0-0 draw as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side lost ground to Manchester City in the title race. REUTERS

LONDON-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United’s forwards need to be more clinical after a 0-0 draw against an understrength Arsenal dealt a second setback to his team’s Premier League title challenge in four days.

United threw away top spot with a shock 2-1 defeat to the league’s worst team, Sheffield United, last Wednesday and is now three points adrift of league leader Manchester City having played a game more than its local rival.

To make matters worse, City on Saturday was able to do what United couldn’t-beat the bottom-of-the-table Blades.

But manager Solskjaer wasn’t focused just yet on the fight to win the league.

“We don’t think about the title race or the title now,” the Norwegian said. “We’re in January.”

The quartet of Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes have now scored just once in United’s last five league games.

Cavani was the biggest threat for the visitor with two second-half efforts that flew just wide, but Arsenal was worthy of at least a point despite missing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney.

“We come away with a clean sheet and we had good chances,” said Solskjaer. “We need to get our forwards firing again. That’s the next step now. We need to be more clinical and get them going again.”

A point does at least maintain United’s long unbeaten run away from home in the league, which now stands at 18 games, bettering the previous club record held by Alex Ferguson’s 1998-99 treble-winning team.

Arsenal edged to within six points of the top four and it was the Gunners who came closest to scoring when Alexandre Lacazette’s freekick struck the bar in the second half.

“The fact we had three of our best players out probably has an impact, but I’m really happy with the players that played today,” said Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

“In the second half we were so dominant and had some big chances to win it.”

There was one big positive for United manager Solskjaer as his team set a club-record 18 away games unbeaten in the top tier.

“It’s like an NBA season-traveling on the road again,” he said.

Unlike the early days of Solskjaer’s reign, when United routinely counterattacked to great effect against stronger opponents, it is against the traditional top-six rivals that the Red Devils’ challenge for a first league title since 2013 has faltered.

United has still yet to beat any of City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea or Arsenal in the league in six attempts this season.

After winning at Old Trafford three months ago, the Gunners went seven league games without a victory but have bounced back in recent weeks.

Arteta’s men are now unbeaten in seven to move back into contention for a top-four finish, but will rue missing their chances in the second half to take all three points.

Tierney and Saka were missing through injury, while Aubameyang was also absent for the third consecutive game as the Gabon striker had to quarantine after traveling back from visiting his ill mother.

After a tentative start from both sides, Bernd Leno made a brilliant save to deny Fred a clever opener for United as the Brazilian tried to lob the ball home from the edge of the box.

It was exactly a year to the day since United signed Fernandes and the Portuguese nearly celebrated the anniversary with a curling effort that drifted inches wide.

Fernandes has had a transformative impact on United’s fortunes and came closer than anyone to breaking the deadlock before the break with a freekick that was deflected inches over.

Willian has had the opposite effect since joining Arsenal in August, but the Brazilian was called upon by Arteta for the second half in place of Gabriel Martinelli.

Former Chelsea winger Willian’s lack of confidence was obvious as his weak effort was blocked after being presented with a great chance early in the second period.

Lacazette’s freekick came even closer than Fernandes’ effort from a similar area on the pitch as the French forward’s shot crashed back off the bar.

Moments later Emile Smith Rowe’s powerful effort was parried by David de Gea.

A swerving effort from Nicolas Pepe did not have enough curl to nestle in the far corner, but United could still have snatched a win to keep the pressure on City late on.

Cavani pounced on Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s dangerous cross only to see his volley fly inches wide.

Agencies