• FA Cup

Smalling: Ferguson targeting Treble

ESPN staff
February 18, 2013
Chris Smalling believes United can win their first FA Cup since 2004 © Getty Images

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Sir Alex Ferguson has told his Manchester United players he expects them to challenge for the Treble this season, Chris Smalling has revealed.

After finishing last season with only the Community Shield to show for their efforts, United are well placed to add to their trophy cabinet in the current campaign, with the club 12 points clear of second-placed Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.

They also secured a commendable 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League second-round tie against Real Madrid, and are favourites to progress when they host Reading in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday night.

Ferguson recently compared his current squad favourably with that of the 1998-99 season, when United famously won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, and Smalling has revealed he is eyeing a repeat.

"The manager has stressed that he expects to go to the end in all three competitions," he said. "The FA Cup is notoriously unpredictable. Luton reached the fifth round this year, which shows that anything can happen so there is no point looking too far ahead, but our home form has been good and another victory can give us the impetus to kick on and get to another final."

United's last two FA Cup finals have ended in disappointment, losing to Arsenal on penalties in 2005 and Chelsea in extra-time in 2007, and their last success came in 2004, when Championship side Millwall were defeated.

"I was quite shocked at how long it has been since United won the FA Cup," Smalling said. "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."

Man Utd player to watch: Ferguson promised to shuffle the pack after United's 1-1 draw with Madrid, and with Paul Scholes still out with a knee injury there is likely to be a return for Tom Cleverley. The manager challenged the England international to produce more goals from midfield and will be hoping the 23-year-old has brought his shooting boots.

Reading player to watch: Adam Le Fondre has had a knack for scoring big goals for Reading this season, not least his brace off the bench to rescue a point against Chelsea. Can the striker keep Reading's hopes of a third quarter-final berth in four seasons alive?

Betting: United have won 10 and lost just one of the 18 previous matches against Reading, and are just three short of clocking up 500 FA Cup goals. Back them to reach the landmark tonight en route to victory at 9/1 with bet365

Prediction: 3-1

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