Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed Manchester United's superior goal difference is now worth an extra point in the Premiership title battle with Chelsea.
The Red Devils took maximum advantage of Chelsea's surprise failure to beat Reading at Stamford Bridge yesterday by beating Wigan, to open up a four-point lead over Jose Mourinho's men at the top of the table.
However, even if Chelsea claw back the points, it will not be enough to oust United from the summit.
Their two-goal triumph over the Latics means their advantage in the goal difference stakes now stands at 13, a figure it is impossible to see Chelsea hauling back in their present form.
It is 1989, when Arsenal's amazingly win at Liverpool in the final game of the season allowed them to creep above the Merseysiders on goals scored, since the top two in the English championship have finished level on points.
But, in a battle he has long predicted will go right down to the wire, Ferguson believes it is a useful advantage to have.
'The goal difference helps us, there is no doubt about that,' said Ferguson.
'I have always believed in those terms, 10 or 12 goals makes a point.
'If it remains that way, it is something we have to fall back on. Hopefully we won't have to, but it is there anyway.'
Having utilised a squad he feels it is `an insult' to claim is not deep enough to sustain a title charge against Wigan, Ferguson intends to make more changes for Saturday's encounter with Reading.
Two have been forced on him anyway as Nemanja Vidic and Paul Scholes are both suspended after reaching five yellow cards for the campaign.
The twin absences should signal an automatic return for Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs, while Louis Saha and Gary Neville can also expect recalls at the expense of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Wes Brown, both of whom caught the eye in front of another Premiership record crowd, the seventh time United have set a new figure this season.
'We are coming to the part of the season where we have to utilise the squad and I need to give some of the players who haven't been in the team regularly that I have confidence in them and that I trust them,' he said.
'I want them to feel they made a contribution. I also need them to have minutes on the clock in case we do pick up injuries and suspensions.'
Having put clear daylight between themselves and Chelsea once more, United are in no mood to allow the Londoners another opening to close the gap.
Nevertheless, Ferguson did not need to see events unfold at Stamford Bridge yesterday to know Reading will provide a stiff test for the Red Devils this weekend.
Steve Coppell's men have already held United to a richly-deserved draw at the Madejski Stadium this season and Ferguson has been impressed by the Royals' form this term.
'We have to be wary of Reading,' he said.
'I wasn't really surprised by the way they performed at Chelsea, although I was pleasantly delighted by the result. It just reinforced what we will have to do this weekend.'