Alex Ferguson took a calculated risk ahead of Manchester United’s match against Everton on Sunday, with their Champions League clash with Real Madrid just around the corner.
The United manager had wanted to make wholesale changes to his line-up to face the Toffees, to keep their powder dry for the major European challenge of facing Jose Mourinho’s Spanish champions.
However, Manchester City’s shock defeat to Southampton earlier during the weekend provided Fergie with an opportunity that was too good to miss, and he held back on making too many changes to his regular first-team.
The result was a comfortable win over Everton, which twisted the knife in City’s back, leaving United an almost unassailable 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League table- their biggest league advantage in 12 years.
After the match, Fergie admitted that City’s defeat left United in a “fantastic position”, which he felt they needed to capitalise on by seeing off the Toffees.
"I was going to make seven changes," Ferguson said.
"Then when I got the [City] result I thought this would be a more important game for us. It would give us a comfortable lead and we could make changes later on in the season.
“Realistically we knew if we got a result it would put us in a fantastic position.”
Asked if the league trophy is now firmly on its way to the Old Trafford trophy cabinet again, Fergie would not take the bait.
“No, No,” he said.
“We have to win our games anyway. It doesn't matter what happened to City. That is the way we should look at it. I've said it for weeks – concentrate on our own game and we'll be OK."
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the gamble of resting just Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young and Shinji Kagawa ahead of the Real clash will scupper United’s European chances.
Real manager and Fergie’s unlikely friend, Jose Mourinho, was at Old Trafford to watch the Red Devils in action, and he saw enough to make him suggest a red hot tie is afoot.
"It is the match the world is waiting for," Mou said.
"The world is not waiting for other matches in the Champions League so I hope we can give the world what they are waiting for."
Will Fergie’s EPL gamble come back to haunt him in the Champions League?