Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed Manchester City's shock defeat at Southampton on Saturday night prompted him to scrap his selection plans and go full tilt for the Premier League title.
The move paid dividends as first-half goals from Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie proved enough to see off a dogged Everton outfit at Old Trafford. United are now 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League. Even though it may have an impact on Wednesday's Champions League duel with Real Madrid, Ferguson believes the changes were worth the U-turn.
"As soon as I saw the result at Southampton I thought this was an opportunity for us to get a real comfortable lead," said Ferguson. "I scrapped the changes I originally planned to make."
He went on: "I was going to make about seven changes but it was about being realistic. We knew if we could get a result then it put us in a fantastic position and we can make changes later on in the season."
That pre-supposes United do make it past Real, whose manager Jose Mourinho met Ferguson ahead of Sunday's game and watched on from the directors' box. However, after losing the title to City last term, there has been a keen desire for the Red Devils to regain their superiority.
And Everton boss David Moyes said: "I think 12 points against a club like Manchester United is a big gap to make up. Football doesn't always go the way it is meant to be but it looks a lot. To be that amount of points ahead is a big thing at this time of the season."
Giggs' 13th-minute effort, which rolled in off a post after Van Persie had created the opportunity, extended the veteran Welshman's run of scoring in every Premier League campaign. Indeed, he has now scored in 23 seasons, which Ferguson admitted was a remarkable record.
"I think the superlatives have all been used up," said the United boss. "His legacy lives on he is just a fantastic human being. Again at 38, or is he 39, maybe even 40 he is up and down that pitch all day. He has fantastic energy for the game."
The one downside for United was the loss of Phil Jones, who did a diligent man-marking job on Marouane Fellaini but was forced off 10 minutes into the second half with a calf strain. Jonny Evans also complained of cramp before he was replaced, although Rio Ferdinand was set to come into the United line-up anyway for the Madrid clash.
"I had a chat with Jose before the game," said Ferguson. "He was in good form and we are both looking forward to the game. It will be terrific."