Treble on the agenda at Manchester United

Posted by Mark Payne

Premier LeaguePA PhotosPatrice Evra: "Time to show that we are the number one team."

Nobody makes of a secret of the fact that Manchester United are ambitious. As soon as the players return from the international break this week, they will be switched on to objectives of the club once more. At Old Trafford, the sight of the neighbours parading trophies around in the last couple of seasons has touched a nerve. They want the treble again, and February is a crucial month if they are to realise that dream.

"It's a really important time for us," said Patrice Evra, who finished last season thinking he was a championship winner, only to find out a minute later he wasn't. "Nobody forgets the big disappointment of losing the title last season."

The Frenchman, who was part of the national side beaten by Germany midweek, is not resting on his laurels. "We really want to show we are champions," he said, mindful that the current nine-point gap hasn't finished the battle yet.

But that gap is allowing people to dream, and Sir Alex Ferguson expects the players understand what a good position they are in. "You hope that the players realise that the league is there for them," he said this week.

The manager, who has won two doubles and a treble, obviously fancies another tilt at a multiple-trophy season: "We haven't been in the [FA Cup] final for nearly six years; that's a big attraction for us." Perhaps he has withdrawal symptoms after not winning anything last year.

After taking on Everton this weekend, United will play Reading in the fifth round of the FA Cup this month and will also kick off their double-header against Real Madrid. It is a period that presents tricky assignments in all three competitions, and hopes rest on the squad holding together.

"We've got players back from injury, which is important," Ferguson said. "During the second half of the season, when the big games come along, you hope everyone is fit."

One man who will be ruled out is Phil Jones, with a virus, but in Rio Ferdinand, United have extremely decent cover. "I'm here fighting for titles and couldn't be any happier" said the man omitted by England again this week. You get the impression he wouldn't mind proving Roy Hodgson & Co. wrong by picking up a couple of medals with United this term.

Ferdinand has never won an FA Cup medal and that is one thing he can put right in the coming months. "Everything I'm doing is for playing for Manchester United and doing the best I can for United."

Tempting fate is never the best course of action, and United are hesitant about using the dreaded 'T' word in interviews. "It's obviously a big challenge and we've got the FA Cup and the Champions League as well, and managing the squad is going to be important," Ferdinand said.

Ultimately, desire might play a crucial factor. "This is the time when you have to win your games and show that we are the number one team," Evra said. As United's stars reconvene for training this Friday, motivation, at least, won't be lacking.

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