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Premier League

Carrick targets trio of wins to keep treble dream alive

The Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick is aiming to take a "defining" step towards the treble this week – with a hat-trick of victories.

After defeating Tottenham in the FA Cup, Sir Alex Ferguson's side plan to cement their place at the top of the table tonight when they face Portsmouth at Old Trafford. That game is followed by a visit to White Hart Lane and another encounter with Spurs on Saturday. Then there is the small matter of a two-legged Champions League match against Lyons to come.

Carrick said: "Weeks like this can define a season. If we can get the three wins we are aiming for then we will be in good shape."

He is keen to reach the FA Cup final for a second successive year and wipe out the memory of last year's defeat by Chelsea. However, they have to negotiate a tough hurdle in the fifth round with a match against title rivals Arsenal.

"A club like ours is in competitions to win them and we're now starting to look towards Wembley, " Carrick said. "Of course, you do not want to get too carried away because there are tough games ahead.

"But we want to be there again come May, especially because we came so close last season. We're determined to put things right this season."

Ferguson feels that his current squad contains enough quality to challenge for the treble. "It is achievable for us, there's no doubt about that," the United manager said. "Last season I'm certain that if we'd had a stronger squad we could and would have done it. But players like Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Mikael Silvestre all got injured at a bad time.

"We didn't have an experienced central defensive pairing to go into the Champions League semi-final second leg against AC Milan, but we are stronger this time. We know it will be tremendously difficult for us, or any team, but if you are in the competitions then it is a possibility."

Neville and Silvestre are again sidelined through injury, but United have coped admirably in their absence.

Vidic also sat out the cup game at the weekend because of a virus and Ferguson was pleased at the way his side performed at the back. Wes Brown switched to the centre with John O'Shea coming in at right back.

Ferguson added: "Like all managers I'm hoping to steer clear of any injuries for these tough games that lie ahead. If we get to the semi-final of the European Cup and the FA Cup and are still involved in the League this season then we must have some sort of a chance, it might not be a great one but it is some sort of chance."