Keeping it Real: Fergie wants the FA Cup but Europe remains the priority
22:43 GMT, 4 January 2013
23:48 GMT, 4 January 2013
For all Manchester United’s desire to lift a trophy they last won nine years ago, the simple fact is that the fifth and sixth rounds of this season’s FA Cup fall in the same week as the Champions League.
‘Let’s be honest,’ said Sir Alex Ferguson on Friday. ‘Would you rather be at West Ham or Real Madrid’
He did not expect an answer.
Priorities: Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will be trying his hardest to win the FA Cup, but the reality is that the Champions League tie with Real Madrid falls between the fifth and sixth rounds of the competition
It’s traditional at this time of year to talk up the old competition and the romance of the third round.
But even if he can navigate a difficult trip to Upton Park today and then the fourth round, it’s clear the United manager will have to dig deep into his reserves to successfully take the next two steps on the road to Wembley with Jose Mourinho’s Madrid providing a sizeable distraction.
The Spaniards apart, though, Ferguson is sincere in his ambition to win the FA Cup for the first time since beating Millwall in 2004.
Drought: United have not won the FA Cup since beating Millwall 3-0 in 2004
His fondness for the competition was clear in the press conference as he recalled the two Cup final defeats by Arsenal and Chelsea since then, and went even further back to 1996 when United met Liverpool’s Spice Boys in their creamy white suits.
‘That horrible final,’ said Ferguson. ‘One of the worst in the history of mankind. I saw Roy Evans’ face, looking around at the bakers’ XI. Roy was mortified. I thought it was a 1-0 victory for us straightaway!’
Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs played in that one. But along with Darren Fletcher, who played in the win over Millwall in Cardiff, and Robin van Persie, who scored in Arsenal’s penalty shootout victory over United in 2005, they are the only members of the current squad with winner’s medals.
'That horrible final': Ferguson remembers the 1996 final, in which Eric Cantona (right) scored the only goal of the game, none too fondly
Rio Ferdinand, a United player for more than 10 years, is still waiting.
‘It’s amazing, we’ll have to do something about it,’ said Ferguson.
Missing: The FA Cup remains the only club honour missing from Rio Ferdinand's (pictured) collection
‘Rio mentioned it in the dressing room before we went out against Liverpool last year so it means a lot to him and will do to someone who has been in the game for that length of time.
‘The Champions League, without doubt, is the bigger challenge. You have all the big clubs in there now and we are playing Real Madrid.
'It’s a fact of life, but the FA Cup is still the best domestic cup in the world.
‘It still holds the romance about it when you are waiting for the draw. West Ham away is a particularly hard one.
'We’ll play a strong team and hopefully we can get through.’
Wayne Rooney will play no part after he was ruled out for another two weeks with his knee injury.
Ferdinand could also be rested, but Ferguson insisted the veteran is coping with his back problem better than in recent years, and is confident he will sign a new deal even though he is free to speak to foreign clubs.
‘I don’t think Rio wants to leave and I don’t think he is panicking about that,’ said Ferguson. ‘We’re comfortable with it.’