LONDON: Manchester United's miserly defending at Old Trafford has underpinned many of their title-winning campaigns under Alex Ferguson but this season's home lapses could cost them dearly.
The 4-4 draw at home to Everton on Sunday, despite leading 3-1 and 4-2, threw the door wide open for rivals Manchester City to deny United a 20th league title but it was not the first time this season Ferguson's defence had gone AWOL at home.
They were smashed 6-1 by City in October, then lost 3-2 at home to Blackburn Rovers on New Year's Eve.
With one more home match to go they have already conceded 19 league goals at Old Trafford this season, their worst record since the start of the Premier League.
An inability to keep the ball out of their net at home also sabotaged their European campaign with Basle drawing 3-3 and Benfica 2-2 as United bowed out of the Champions League at the group stage.
Even in the Europa League Ajax Amsterdam won 2-1 in Manchester before Atheltic Bilbao returned with a 3-2 victory.
Ferguson praised his side's attacking play against Everton but did not hold back on his defenders.
"To give away four goals at Old Trafford in a home game like that which was so important to us is unbelievable. I can't believe it," he said.
"I think the goals we conceded were soft goals."
The absence of Nemanja Vidic since December has not helped United's cause with Rio Ferdinand badly missing his central defensive partner at times.
Yet despite United's regular home blips, they will still head to the Etihad Stadium next Monday for a title showdown with a three-point lead over City and their destiny very much in their own hands.
United usually respond well to setbacks and they can approach the match with more options than a City side.