Former Manchester City and Liverpool goalkeeper David James says Manchester United must target an extended run in the FA Cup this season - but believes they could come unstuck against Swansea City in the third round this weekend.
United have struggled for form this season under new boss David Moyes, and fell to 7th in the Premier League after a 2-1 defeat against Tottenham at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
That defeat has left them nine points adrift of league leaders Arsenal, and five points off Liverpool, who currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot.
After the busy festive period, attention now turns to the FA Cup and James, speaking ahead of the Red Devils' FA Cup clash against Swansea which will be shown exclusively live on BT Sport, believes that a trip to Wembley in May could be the perfect antidote to their Premier League woes.
"There are two goals [for every team each season]; win a very big competition like the FA Cup and qualify for Europe, and I'm inclined to say that even though my prediction [at the start of the season] was that United would finish third, the way that the league is going for them at the minute there is no guarantee that they're even going to finish in the Europa League positions," he told GiveMeSport.
"So therefore they've got a chance to get into Europe through the FA Cup and really they should be going out and looking to win the game, and furthermore looking to gain confidence from beating Swansea.
"It's very different to ties that the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City have got against Championship sides. They are playing a Premier League side so it's not going to be easy.
"I think Swansea are a very decent Premier League side and on their day are capable of matching up to just about anyone. So the confidence that Manchester United would gain from beating Swansea would be a big and much-needed boost for team morale."
Despite that, James, who won the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008 and now works as a pundit for BT Sport, believes Swansea could spring a surprise against the reigning Premier League champions.
"I've got no axe to grind with Manchester United because of what they did to me in my career but I just think that their league position shows that they're not playing as they have done in the past," he explained.
"I think they are a side who, up against controlled, decent opposition like Swansea, won't win.
"Tottenham's victory at Old Trafford on Wednesday was pretty convincing - even [manager] Tim Sherwood said afterwards that he thought they could have done better.
"So for the away team to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford and say they didn't play as well as they wanted, that really is an indictment on where they are the moment.
"I think Swansea have got a great opportunity to win it."
The following fixtures will be shown live on BT Sport this weekend:
Blackburn Rovers v Manchester City – Saturday 4th January, 12pm, BT Sport 1
Derby County v Chelsea – Sunday 5th January, 1.30pm, BT Sport 1
Manchester Utd v Swansea City – Sunday 5th January, 4.15pm, BT Sport 1
BT Sport will be showing up to 25 live games including the final from this season's FA Cup with Budweiser. BT Sport is free with BT broadband, to find out more visit www.btsport.com
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