Man United’s FA Cup drought leaves Smalling ‘shocked’

CHRIS Smalling has admitted he was stunned to discover it is nine years since Manchester United last lifted the FA Cup.

United have a proud record in the competition. They have won it 11 times, more than any other club, and it was famously Sir Alex Ferguson’s first trophy as United manager.

Indeed, that replay win over Crystal Palace sparked a run of four triumphs in the competition within nine seasons. However, the successes dried up after they defeated Championship outfit Millwall at the Millennium Stadium in 2004.

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They have lost two finals and two semi-finals since and Ferguson has made it clear 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.”

With plenty of changes anticipated for the fifth-round tie against Reading at Old Trafford tonight night, including the likelihood of a start for Smalling, from the team that drew with Real Madrid on Wednesday, the strength of Ferguson’s squad is now becoming evident. And, though the faces will change, there should be no lack of confidence given United are on a 15-match unbeaten run stretching back to a home loss to CFR Cluj in the Champions League two months ago.

“There is a lot of confidence and the results are showing,” said Smalling. 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.

“(But) no game is a foregone conclusion. Even in the league a lot of teams down at the bottom have beaten a teams at the top.”