Chris Smalling believes Manchester United will put in an improved showing in Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final clash at Chelsea compared to their Premier League thrashing at Stamford Bridge in October.
United have not lost since the 4-0 league defeat to the Blues, with Jose Mourinho’s side unbeaten in 17 matches. Despite their fine form, they sit sixth in the league table, 17 points behind the runaway leaders.
Mourinho’s latest return to Chelsea offers an opportunity for redemption and Smalling pledged United will perform at a higher level than in their previous visit.
“Chelsea have been by far the most consistent team in the league and they deserve to be in the position where they are now,” Smalling told MUTV.
“But I think we are on a good run and we will give a much better account of ourselves than we did last time.”
The England international was carrying an injury in the 4-0 October humiliation and Smalling accepts he perhaps should have missed the game, with United targeting another FA Cup title after last season’s success.
“In hindsight, it was probably not the game I should have played in,” he said. “But as a player you try to push yourself and force yourself to play in all sorts of games. That was a big one and I am a player who doesn’t want to miss those games.
“In the lead-up to that week, we had drawn with Liverpool and won in Europe too so we were starting to build up momentum. Then that game at Chelsea completely knocked us – it was definitely one of our worst performances of the season. But from then on we have kicked on and done a lot better.
“I think we all learned a lot of things from that game and, not only do we have progress in this competition to play for, we also have our pride as well.
“The FA Cup is a tough trophy to defend and looking at previous records, not many people have been able to do it and I know United haven’t. So to be a part of history by retaining the cup would be brilliant. We’re in the quarter-finals already and we can see the finishing line is not too far away if we play as well as we can.”