No late lapses, promises O’Shea

United tackle the Toffees at Old Trafford on Saturday looking to

take a significant stride forward in their attempts to claim a

record 19th league title. It is the first meeting between the two

clubs since September, when Sir Alex Ferguson’s men found

themselves two goals clear at Goodison Park and seemingly certain

to collect their first away win of the season. Instead, they were

on the wrong end of a comeback, with Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta

grabbing the stoppage-time efforts that earned the Merseysiders a

point. O’Shea said: “If we are 3-1 up with a couple of minutes to

go, I don’t think the same situation would occur. My clear memory

of that game is that we should have been out of sight. “We created

so many chances but were sloppy in not finishing the game off. In

the end, we got punished.” In the end, United had to wait until the

end of October to claim that long-awaited away win, at Stoke. They

have still only gained five, which is a rather bizarre statistic

and means that, if they do finish top, United will have done so

with the fewest number of away wins since Liverpool needed only

five in 1976-77. It is quite possible they will also become the

first team to win the title with less than 80 points since they

accrued 79 during the 1998-99 treble-winning campaign. Yet O’Shea

views that to be a measure of United’s consistency in a season when

no one has dominated. “You could say we are surprised at our

position given the results early on,” said the Irishman. “But we

weren’t losing games. We were going to tough places and coming away

from matches really disappointed that we had not won quite

comfortably. “There wasn’t much tweaking needed to turn those draws

into wins and our home form has been such a key factor for where we

are in the league now.”