Smalling expects Manchester United to end their nine-year FA Cup drought
Ferguson's side take on Reading tonight aware that last Cup triumph was way back in 2004
Monday 18 February 2013
Such is Manchester United's strong bond to the FA Cup – no club has won it more often than their 11 triumphs – Chris Smalling was stunned to be reminded that it is nine years since they last lifted the trophy.
The England centre-half, who is in line to start at home against Reading this evening in the fifth round as Sir Alex Ferguson rotates his line-up after the 1-1 draw at Real Madrid in the Champions League last week, has only been at United for three years, but was surprised to learn just how few of his team-mates had winners' medals. Only Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes of the current squad know what it feels like to lift the most famous cup in club football in United colours, all three played in the 3-0 defeat of Millwall in 2004, while Robin van Persie won it with Arsenal a year later.
This means, Smalling added, that there is a great desire around Old Trafford to regain the first trophy Ferguson won as United manager, back in 1990. They have lost two finals and two semi-finals since and Ferguson has made it clear to his players a change in fortune is required.
"I was quite shocked at how long it has been since United won the FA Cup," said Smalling. "It is a massive competition and one we all look forward to. Before we played West Ham in the third round, the manager stressed how much we wanted to win this tournament. There are quite a lot of lads who haven't won it despite being here for quite a while."
Smalling is likely to be one of many changes tonight, though confidence is so high at United, who are on a 15-match unbeaten run stretching back to a home loss to CFR Cluj in the Champions League two months ago, that the former Fulham defender believes there is no bitterness between players when rotation occurs. "There is a lot of confidence and the results are showing," he said. "We are going for three competitions, so there are plenty of matches for the whole squad to play in and we are peaking at the right time."
Robin van Persie, however, does not share Smalling's inclusive attitude to team selection. United's top goalscorer, who has found the net 23 times so far in his first season at the club, is enjoying being the main man and wants to play every game.
"I have found out that when you play for Manchester United, every game is a big game," he said.
"There are some extra-special matches – like when you play City or Liverpool in the Premier League and Real Madrid in the Champions League – but the so-called smaller games are important also because winning those games makes you champions.
"Personally, I love to play all of the games. I want to play against Reading. I want to keep going, playing all of the games. I love the buzz, the drama, the excitement. I live for that. I can't imagine the day when I have to stop playing. I know I will miss the buzz so much."
Latest in Sport
How Liverpool can catch Manchester United and secure Champions League football next season
Arsenal transfer news: 'We are not close to signing anybody. We need to lose some players,' says Arsene Wenger
Danny Jones: Keighley Cougars half-back dies after cardiac arrest during league game
Chelsea season player ratings: Grading the entire squad of the new Premier League champions
Floyd Mayweather beats Manny Pacquiao by a unanimous points decision - but Pacquiao thinks he should have won, saying 'he did nothing'
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils