Manchester United took time to hit anything like top gear at Upton Park and had to settle for a 2-2 draw with West Ham, the same scoreline as the FA Cup third-round tie earlier in the season.
Ricardo Vaz Te's opener was cancelled out by Antonio Valencia's first goal of the season but Mohamed Diame's fine strike edged the capital club in front again. Shinji Kagawa, who also set up Valencia's effort, hit the woodwork in the 77th minute and Robin van Persie converted the rebound to salvage a point.
The result means the Reds will be champions if six points are picked up from the last five games - even if Manchester City continue winning as they did tonight by beating Wigan 1-0 at home, courtesy of Carlos Tevez's second-half strike.
Sir Alex Ferguson made only one change to the starting XI on duty at Stoke on Sunday with Rafael replacing Javier Hernandez, prompting Phil Jones and Wayne Rooney to move further forward, albeit as part of a fluid formation.
The Hammers made a furious start and pressed in the opening stages but there was only one moment of danger. Andy Carroll was afforded far too much time on the edge of the box and an offside flag was raised against Kevin Nolan in the middle as the on-loan Liverpool striker’s shot rolled wide.
United were still struggling to gain a foothold in the game when Carroll headed over the top from a corner after a quarter of an hour and it was no great surprise when the hosts opened the scoring soon afterwards. Kagawa’s misplaced pass was pounced upon by Diame and he invited Matt Jarvis to take on Rio Ferdinand. The winger beat the ex-Hammer comfortably and crossed to Carroll, who headed down for Vaz Te to dive