WIGAN, United Kingdom (AFP) - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has confirmed that he will rotate his squad once again for the FA Cup third-round tie at West Ham United at the weekend.
United retained their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on Tuesday. It was their fourth game in 10 days and only four players - David de Gea, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans and Michael Carrick - have started in each of those games.
The United manager made five changes from the team that beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 on Saturday and is determined to keep his squad fresh. "Yes, we will make a few changes for the cup tie," he said.
"The likes of Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick, we took them off as soon as we got the third goal. "They deserve a break and they have played in all the games. We'll have a look at the situation. We've got fresh players. "Young Shinji (Kagawa) came in. We've got plenty of players to freshen it up."
United have picked up eight wins in their last nine Premier League matches, with a 1-1 draw at Swansea City the only blemish in that run.
But the United manager says last season's collapse, which saw United lose an eight-point lead over the course of the final six games, means he will not take the advantage at the top of the table for granted.
"Over the years, December has been a good month for us. This time it has put us into a seven-point lead with 17 games left," he said.
"It's not what I would say is a healthy lead, but it is a lead. It gives us something to kick on with. We just don't want to make mistakes like we did last year." Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has suggested that the arrival of Robin van Persie has been the difference in the title race to this point.
The Dutchman, 29, who joined in a £24 million (S$47.7 million) deal from Arsenal, added further weight to that argument by taking his tally to 16 Premier League goals for the season with a brace at the DW Stadium.
Ferguson says he always expected van Persie to be a success.
"We knew we were getting a top player, a major player who would make a difference to the team. That's why we went for him," he said.
"I knew he would make the difference because of his maturity, because I made the point at the time: he has great international experience, he's played for Arsenal for seven years, and he came to us at the very peak of his career, which we are delighted about."
Javier Hernandez opened the scoring at Wigan when he thumped in after Patrice Evra's effort was blocked by Ali Al Habsi and Van Persie curled in a fine second just before half-time.
After van Persie's free-kick was blocked by the wall, Hernandez added a third with a shot on the turn before van Persie tapped in from a Danny Welbeck cross in the closing stages.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez was forced to begin the match with eight players who had started each of the Latics' four matches over the previous 11 days.
"To play four games in the space of 11 days was very tough and the opposition made five changes and brought in fresh legs," he said.
"It was an unfair game for us. United can make those changes and not drop the quality. They have a clear identity in the way they play, they're a strong squad, and it will be very difficult to reduce the gap at the top."