Phil Jones has declared that the FA Cup has gained added importance for Manchester United because the club is not in the Champions League this season.
United face Yeovil Town, who are bottom of League One, at Huish Park today, and although Louis van Gaal, the United manager, is expected to ring the changes to some extent, with starts for James Wilson and Adnan Januzaj, he will also field a strong side.
“We want to play in it (The FA Cup), it’s a game we want to win and we want to progress in it — it’s going to be a big competition for us this season,”
Jones said. “We are not in the Champions League this season so there is even more of an expectation to go and put a performance on at Yeovil.
“The FA Cup is definitely a competition we want to win. With not being in the Champions League it’s a trophy we definitely want to win, especially as this club hasn’t won it for a long time.”
Despite United’s cup pedigree they have not won the FA Cup since 2004 — which means that Darren Fletcher is the only current squad member who has won the trophy with the club (Robin van Persie won it with Arsenal in 2005) and Jones said that they would be wary of the threat posed by their League One opponents.
“Listen, it won’t be an easy game down there we know that,” he said. “People might think we will go there and walk all over Yeovil. It will not be like that at all.
“Form doesn’t matter in the league, with whatever they have been doing or we have been doing, it is going to be a difficult game for us and we will prepare right.”
When asked whether United’s shock 4-0 defeat against MK Dons in the League Cup second round in August has served as a warning to them, Jones said.
“Yes, exactly. You’ve hit the nail on the head there. We can’t let that happen again, we have to be professional about it and go and do the job.
“I didn’t play in that game, I was at home watching on TV. It was unfortunate watching it and very disappointing, so we have to make sure there is no repeat of that again.”
After a heavy Christmas and new year fixture list, however, Jones said that he expected the manager to make changes, but that he hoped to be involved.
“Everyone in the dressing room wants to play football, it doesn’t matter what game or what competition,” the England defender said.
“The FA Cup is a massive competition, especially for the British lads in the squad, growing up watching the FA Cup draw and the games.
“Of course, fatigue will always play a part in a run of games like we have had so close together over Christmas and the New Year, so we need to recover well, but that’s all in place and we know what we have to do.”
Van Gaal, meanwhile, said that he was well aware of the potential for embarrassment—having endured cup shocks in Holland and Spain as a coach — and that United would be well prepared.
“It is more difficult than a Premier League team, but we have images of Yeovil — but also from Milton Keynes we had a lot of matches,” said the United manager.
“My scout had seen Milton Keynes two or three times, I am always preparing. Yeovil as well, because we are professionals and we have to prepare games like professionals because it will not be easy.”
Asked what he would want as a New Year’s resolution as United manager, Van Gaal said: “2014 was already very exciting for me and my players but I hope we can continue and I hope for the fans at the end of 2015 we are number one in the league at the end of this year.”