Sir Alex Ferguson admitted to being relieved after his Manchester United side were only beaten 1-0 by Derby in Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final first leg.
The reigning Premier League, European and World Champions were beaten for the first time in 15 matches by a superb 30th minute strike by Kris Commons which gave the Championship side a shock lead going into the second leg at Old Trafford on January 20.
''We could have lost by more,'' admitted Ferguson. ''We were lucky. We were so bad that Derby will rue the fact they didn't score more.
Not only does the defeat give United an uphill battle to reach the Carling Cup final it will also rock the side's confidence ahead of Sunday's crucial Premier League encounter against Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Despite the setback Ferguson is convinced United can overcome Derby's advantage and insists the Rams' wastefulness offered his side a reprieve the Scot is certain United will take full advantage of.
''In any semi-final you hope to give yourself that breathing space,'' he said. ''But we expect to recover a 1-0 deficit against anyone at Old Trafford and I am sure we will.''
Ferguson acknowledged Nigel Clough's presence may also have been a major influence even though the new Derby boss was only watching from the Pride Park stands.
''It happens so many times historically, there is no rhyme or reason to it,'' he said. ''A few years ago we played West Ham and Alan Curbishley had just taken over and they beat us 1-0. It is a strange thing.''
Derby's win means that Clough is just one match away from a trip to Wembley on March 1 and the chance to win the League Cup, a competition his late father Brian, famously a former Derby boss, won four times.
The bookmakers still make Ferguson's side favourites to emerge victorious, although, in a packed month he faces a tricky decision over his selection for the second-leg.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick came off the bench on Wednesday night, although it was youngsters Darron Gibson and Daniel Welbeck who received most praise and an assurance over their place for the decider.
''The young lads did well,'' said Ferguson. ''Darron Gibson was one of our best players and he deserves his place. The younger ones will play again.''