With a Champions League semi-final against Schalke looming tomorrow, Ferguson opted to rest a number of senior stars for the Premier League tussle against Everton.
Captain Nemanja Vidic and midfielder Park Ji-sung did not even make the bench, while Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra were among the substitutes. After 83 minutes of a vital game, the move appeared to have backfired, but Javier Hernandez’s downward header saw Ferguson vindicated and United move a step closer towards a record 19th title.
“The manager made an awful lot of changes, including myself, and there were people who had not played for a while,” Evans said. “It was a big gamble. I am sure some people thought that when they looked at the team sheet. But that is what the manager does and it has paid off.”
More than 15 playing hours since he previously found the net for club or country, Fernando Torres made the first repayment on his record-breaking £50m price tag when he helped Chelsea beat West Ham 3-0 to keep their title hopes alive.
The Spain striker was mobbed by every one of his outfield team-mates and midfielder Frank Lampard, scorer of the first goal, applauded the way his new team-mate had handled the huge pressure.
“A world-class striker comes with a massive price tag,” said Lampard. “You can’t change quality and you can’t change a world-class player. We’ve seen it with him in his career and nothing changes. He’s a quiet lad, he’s not opened his mouth. If he’s been on the bench, he’s come on and not said anything.
“It was always going to be a matter of time and I think now you’re going to see him fly, whether it be the last few games of this season or next season.”
Saturday’s game was the third in succession Torres had been forced to start as a substitute, with manager Carlo Ancelotti deciding he could not risk leaving out the in-form Didier Drogba.
Florent Malouda’s goal wrapped up the scoring and left West Ham rock bottom.