In the first leg in Spain last month, United forged few opportunities until very late in the game and amassed all of one shot on target in the whole 90 minutes as they prioritised their quest for a clean sheet and came away with a 0-0 draw.
Some onlookers later questioned the wisdom of such an approach though, with Jose Mourinho having decided to take his chances back in Manchester despite the knowledge that a score draw would see United dumped out of the competition at the round of 16 stage.
Mourinho clearly would have seen it as a calculated gamble, with Champions League history being largely on United’s side as they look to complete the second half of the task by winning at home in the second leg. There have been 30 previous occasions in which a first leg has been drawn 0-0 since the competition moved into the Champions League format in 1992, and the team playing away first has gone on to progress 21 times at a 70 per cent success rate.
United themselves have managed to pull off the feat three times, although they failed on the first two occasions in which they found themselves in such a position.
In 1998 they took Monaco back to Old Trafford after a 0-0 draw in the principality but were undone by David Trezeguet’s early goal in the second leg of the quarter-final, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s equaliser insufficient to carry them through.
It was a similar story at the same stage two years later as they hosted Real Madrid following a scoreless tie but were unable to recover from a 3-0 second-leg deficit, eventually losing 3-2 at home.
They have since triumphed against Barcelona in the 2008 semi-finals by a single Paul Scholes goal in the home second-leg, then beat current boss Mourinho and Inter 2-0 at home in the return game in 2009 after drawing 0-0 at San Siro, and most recently dispensed with Marseille 2-1 in 2011 when heading to Old Trafford in a similar position.
Mourinho himself has a mixed record. In 2004 his Porto side denied Deportivo following a 0-0 draw in Portugal in the first leg, winning the return match 1-0 in Spain, but within a year his Chelsea side were being beaten 1-0 by Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ for Liverpool following a 0-0 semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.
And following his exit to United with Inter, his 2014 Chelsea side earned a 0-0 semi-final draw away to Atletico Madrid only to then be dumped out of the competition thanks to a 3-1 second-leg loss in west London.
United fans will be hoping that their side follow the example of Bayern Munich in 2015 when they drew 0-0 in the first leg of their last-16 clash with Shakhtar Donetsk. Pep Guardiola’s side walloped the Ukrainians 7-0 in the second game at the Allianz Arena, the largest margin following a scoreless opening game in Champions League history.
The only time two teams have played out 0-0 draws in both legs came two years ago, when PSV and Atletico went to penalties in the round of 16, with the Spanish side eventually prevailing on penalties.