Alex Ferguson tells Manchester United players to end FA Cup drought

United have not won the competition for nine years

Sir Alex Ferguson has been drilling it home to his Manchester United players that it is time their nine-year FA Cup drought came to an end.

After winning the competition four times in 10 years after Ferguson finally ended his United trophy drought by beating Crystal Palace in 1990, the Red Devils have secured it just once since.

The 2004 win over Millwall has been followed by disappointing final defeats to Arsenal and Chelsea and two semi-final losses, the most recent against Manchester City in 2011.

Of the current squad, only Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher have winners' medals, and Ferguson has told his players that statistic needs to change.

"The manager has made the point to us that we have not done too well in the last few years," defender Chris Smalling said. "We need to make sure we get back on track in the competition.

"The league is going well and we're into the Champions League knockout stages, so we want to do well in this as well."

Smalling, 23, was less than six months old when Ferguson secured the first silverware of his illustrious reign after United beating Palace in the 1990 final replay at Wembley.

Since then, the advent and continued success of both the Premier League and Champions League have downgraded the FA Cup's status within the English game.

Yet Smalling still views it as a special tournament and certainly one he would want on his CV.

"The FA Cup has always been a massive competition," he said. "You've got the situation where lower league teams have the chance to play some of the top sides. It can be a real adventure."

Not that there is any romance to be had for United this weekend, just the knowledge that tomorrow's trip to West Ham promises to be hazardous in the extreme.

Born in Greenwich, Smalling has been exposed to West Ham from an early age, even if he was not a particular fan of them, or anyone, as a kid.

And he knows just how tough tomorrow's encounter is going to be.

"It wasn't the easiest draw we could have chosen. Sam Allardyce has got a good team together and done very well," Smalling said.

"The fans really get behind them, especially at Upton Park, which will make it more difficult for us. But it is always somewhere I have enjoyed playing and it will be a good atmosphere."

PA

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