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By ESPN Staff

'United on the verge of greatness' - Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced his current Manchester United side is on the verge of greatness.

After winning eight Premiership titles during his time at Old Trafford, Ferguson is carefully crafting a new team he hopes will deliver a ninth.

Without five senior figures the Red Devils were never at their best against Everton last night but they still recorded a 3-0 win which maintained their three-point advantage over Chelsea.

With less than half the season gone, Ferguson knows there is too much time remaining to start making boastful statements.

But he can sense a surge in his side which suggests they could be crowned champions again in May.

'The players have a lot to work for,' he said.

'I think they are on the verge of achieving something great at this club and you don't want to miss these things.

'When we got back into the dressing room, we managed to watch the last few minutes of Chelsea's game at Bolton.

'That kind of thing will always happen. The important thing is we are in a position to worry about them.'

While the gap remains the same, United's superiority in the goal difference stakes was extended a little bit more as Cristiano Ronaldo, Patrice Evra and John O'Shea all found the target.

In what promises to be such a tight race, Ferguson knows the Red Devils greater attacking prowess could prove vital.

And he admits he would take the title going right to the wire if it was offered.

'I hope goal difference will prove crucial,' he said. 'I will take that right now.'

Ferguson has played down rumours of a rift with Ryan Giggs and insisted the veteran Welshman sat out the game purely to try to ease the burden on him during an intense period of the campaign.

'Ryan is an important player for us and we have to pick our moments with him,' said Ferguson.

'We cannot expect him to keep running up and down the touchline all the time. He is 33 now, we have to look after the older members of the species.'

Ferguson also eased injury fears about Rio Ferdinand, who hobbled off before the final whistle, although he did admit to some concern over Nemanja Vidic, who was the victim of an elbow which some inside the United camp felt should have seen Didier Drogba dismissed at the weekend.

Even without leading scorer Andrew Johnson and goalkeeper Tim Howard, it was a chance lost for Everton, who would have gone third with a win.

'This is a hard place to come but that scoreline was not fair on us,' said Toffees boss David Moyes.

'We were well in the game when they got their first and we were trying to get it back when they got their second.'