Instead it was Spurs who had the first serious attempt on goal when Bentley flipped the ball up with his right foot and cracked a 25-yard volley with his left, forcing Van der Sar into a smart save.
But the hosts suffered a blow three minutes later when Jonathan Woodgate was forced off with a back problem after an innocuous-looking challenge with Carlos Tevez.
On came Tom Huddlestone to play in midfield, with Didier Zokora moving to right back and Vedran Corluka replacing Woodgate at centre-back.
United quickly tried to test Spurs' right flank, with Ronaldo sending in a cross for Dimitar Berbatov, who could only loop a header into Heurelho Gomes's arms.
That was the story of Berbatov's return to White Hart Lane for the first time since his acrimonious transfer, as he narrowly failed to silence the deafening boos that accompanied his every touch.
Redknapp praises 'terrific performance'
The Bulgarian was denied a certain goal when Gomes superbly diverted Ronaldo's low cross and was inches away from getting his head to John O'Shea's cross as United continued to attack down their left.
Tottenham also went close to breaking the deadlock, first when Aaron Lennon's low shot brought a fine save out of Edwin van der Sar and then when Luka Modric sent a diving header just off target.
United tried to step up the tempo after the break and Berbatov set off on a menacing run but was thwarted again when Michael Dawson nicked the ball away as he was about to shoot.
From the corner, Ronaldo controlled the ball and lashed home, but the goal was disallowed for a handball.
Phelan happy with a point at Spurs
The warning was there for Tottenham, who tried to hit back and Bentley tested Van der Sar with a well-struck free-kick.
However, it was only a brief respite for Spurs as they came under increasing pressure.
Gomes had to be alert to keep out Nemanja Vidic's shot and Ferdinand headed narrowly over as United pressed.
The Brazilian keeper, much criticised of late, was showing he can also hit the headlines for the right reasons and he brilliantly saved from Ji-Sung Park.
His finest save was to come late on, when he tipped substitute Giggs' free-kick on to the bar.
United do not now play until their trip to Stoke on Boxing Day because of their involvement in the Fifa Club World Championship.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp: "Any time you take a point off of Man United it's a good result.
"Obviously you want to win your home games but we started the game without Ledley (King), who failed a fitness test before the game, and then we lost Jonathan Woodgate after about five minutes so we knew it was going to be a tough old night.
"To come through as we did I though was fantastic. It was a terrific performance, a really hard-working performance."
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "It is not a bad result. We dominated the game for the most part and their goalkeeper has made two fantastic saves near the end.
"We just needed that bit of luck or a break close to goal but we didn't get it. But you have to admire the intensity of our game. Tottenham have been on a high since Harry Redknapp came.
"There is a bit of life about the club now. You expect to see them higher up the league and I am sure they will be. Overall, I am satisfied with the performance."
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