Manchester United’s FA Cup defence begins against Reading this weekend with Daley Blind describing the achievement of winning the competition last season as a highlight of his career.
The dramatic triumph over Crystal Palace in last May’s final brought the trophy back to Old Trafford for the first time since 2004 and gave the Dutch defender his first taste of silverware with the Reds, following his move from Ajax in 2014.
Ahead of Saturday’s third-round tie at Old Trafford, Blind told MUTV he would love another long FA Cup run.
“It’s a very special feeling to win the FA Cup,” he said. “It’s a big prize in England and you come to a club like United to win prizes. It was my second season at the club and I was very happy to lift the FA Cup. It’s one of the highlights of my career.”
Blind and his team-mates will enter this season’s tournament in fine form after seven consecutive wins in all competitions, and the Dutchman is naturally determined to extend that sequence.
“When you’re in a phase of winning games as we are now, the positive feeling gets better and better,” he said. “I think we’re in great form now, and we have to keep that spirit going. It’s a good feeling.”
Like United, Reading come into this weekend’s game on the back of an impressive run. The side managed by Blind’s countryman and ex-Reds defender Jaap Stam have won each of their last three fixtures, and sit third in the Championship table. Consequently, Daley is expecting the Royals to provide a tough test and warns United must approach the game like any other.
“It can be difficult against lower-league opposition,” he added. “You cannot underestimate them as they always have players who can make a difference.
“But we are at home and clubs don’t like to come to Old Trafford. We have to keep it that way. We have to believe in ourselves and bring our best level to every game – that’s the only way you can win.
“Whether we’re playing against a lower-league team or another team in the Premier League, we have to be confident and play our own game.”
Saturday’s lunch-time clash with Reading will be swiftly followed on Tuesday by another knock-out tie at home, the EFL Cup semi-final against Hull City, albeit with a second leg to come 16 days later.
“It’s a very important period,” said Blind. “We have a very fit squad and I think we need everyone because we have a lot of games.
“I think that [competition for places] makes the team better and better. Everyone wants to fight for his place and when the competition is high, you have to perform and you lift each other’s performances. It’s good for the team.”