Sir Alex Ferguson admits surprise at Manchester United's 15-point advantage

City's battle to retain their crown has been poor

Sir Alex Ferguson is stunned Manchester United are 15 points clear in the Premier League title race.

Following Manchester City's demise at Everton just before the international break, United require only 13 more points from their remaining nine games to clinch a record 20th championship.

They might not even need that many given City visit Old Trafford on April 8, and the feeling is Ferguson has already set his sights on eclipsing United's record 18-point winning margin from 2000.

It has certainly been the best possible recovery from having the title snatched from their grasp by Sergio Aguero with virtually the very last kick of the previous campaign.

And one that Ferguson did not expect.

"With Manchester City coming on the scene in the last couple of years and Chelsea and Arsenal and Tottenham, you have teams vying for that top-four position," Ferguson told Sirius XM.

"I expected it to be really tight.

"The first point was that after last season, we wanted to make sure we didn't lose it on goal difference, and that has improved markedly.

"But I never thought we would be 15 points clear at this stage of the season."

It has given Ferguson some leeway with his selections over the Easter weekend, when United find themselves pitched into two key games in the space of 48 hours.

Following Saturday's lunchtime trip to Sunderland - which could move United 18 points clear given City are not in action until slightly later - the Red Devils must prepare for Monday's FA Cup quarter-final replay with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

As one of the players not being troubled by international duty, Rio Ferdinand can expect significant involvement following his controversial trip to Qatar, whilst Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Anderson should also be fresh.

"Every coach is praying that their players come back fit," said Ferguson.

"They played last Friday and they are playing tonight. Once I know later this evening how many minutes each player has played, I will start to think about my team for Saturday.

"I have to make sure I have some freshness in the team because we also have Chelsea on Monday lunchtime.

"It is a big ask for our squad and something we need to concentrate on because I need to make sure I pick the right teams."

Meanwhile, Ferguson has reiterated his claim that Paul Gascoigne is the player he most regrets missing out on.

Gascoigne is attempting to piece his life back together after another bout of drinking that left many of his friends fearing for his future.

No-one knows what might have happened had Gascoigne elected to join United instead of Tottenham when he had the chance in 1988.

But the charismatic former England midfielder wishes his life had taken a different direction, and so does Ferguson.

"I have always said when Paul Gascoigne chose to go to Tottenham ahead of Manchester United it was a big mistake," he said.

"He always regretted that.

"He was a fantastic footballer. He was the best player England produced since the days of Bobby Charlton."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss