Against Everton in a losing effort, Sir Alex chose to replace Dimitar Berbatov with Paul Scholes and brought on Michael Owen for Antonio Valencia. This perhaps more than anything underscores the changed configuration of the bench from last season.
Almost a year ago Kiko Macheda was being touted as channeling Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's soul, a big time killer of the bench. His stunning 93rd minute strike against Villa stopped a two game skid, providing a huge psychological boost towards their winning streak as they overtook Liverpool in the race for the Premiership.
The hype was tremendous but Macheda repeated the feat against Sunderland the next week as the match was heading towards a stalemate.
Macheda was not alone. He joined Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson in the super sub category. The opposition found themselves at the wrong end of some sparkling play and timely goals by the trio of youngsters. Welbeck announced his arrival with a thumping 30 yard pile driver which beat Thomas Sorenson in a 5-0 win over Stoke. Adding to Man Utd's aura of invincibility and the despair of other clubs.
After the Aston Villa match:
"I was always going to gamble," Ferguson said. "Winning is the name of the game at this club. We deserved the result as we gambled and tried to win the game. We take terrible risks and don't defend properly, but there's always more goals in this team."
Against Villa, injuries and suspensions depleting his starters, and facing an adverse score, Sir Alex chose to bring in Macheda and Welbeck as substitutes. He found goalscoring sources other than Ronaldo, Rooney, and Tevez.
This year, Sir Alex has not been as venturesome relying on older hands. Welbeck has moved onto Preston North End on loan. Macheda has not made one appearance. Gabriel Obertan has been used sparingly. Gibson is the only one with a modicum of appearances. The bench's impact has been decidedly subdued.
Everton seems to have found its Kiko Macheda and Daniel Welbeck in Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell. Their arrival could bode well for a strong Everton finish. The top four? Don't count them out.