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

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."

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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor