United stress Leeds is top priority

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/m/manchesterunited.jpg' class='caption'> Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher insists that Sunday's FA Cup duel with historic rivals Leeds is his immediate concern.

Updated: January 02, 2010 16:00 IST
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Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher insists that Sunday's FA Cup duel with historic rivals Leeds is his immediate concern rather than a Premier League-Champions League double.

Leeds, former English champions but currently playing in the third tier of domestic football after a spectacular fall from grace, will be the first in a series of key games for United.

After Sunday comes a meeting with Manchester City in the League Cup semi-finals before Premier League battle resumes again at Birmingham on January 9.

AC Milan are then on the agenda in the Champions League in February.

"Everyone looks ahead and speaks about the Christmas period but the matches we are into now straight afterwards are just as important," said Fletcher.

"I just take each game as it comes and think all the other players do the same thing.

"You can look too far ahead of yourself and start thinking about what is to come whether you have an easy run of games.

"But it never works out like that. We have the FA Cup, the League Cup semi-final and then more important league games. The best thing to do is try to win them all."

Teammate Michael Carrick said he is relishing United's clash with Leeds and feels Sir Alex Ferguson's side are on the verge of a fine burst of form.

United go into the new year two points off the Premier League leaders Chelsea and safely through to the knock-out phase of the Champions League.

Even so, England midfielder Carrick accepts United have not hit top gear yet during the campaign.

The Old Trafford club have lost five matches in the Premier League and have been beset by defensive injuries.

Those problems at the back are starting to clear up, with Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic forming what looks like a solid central defensive partnership.

Ferguson intends to use his youngsters in the League Cup against City but has said he will opt for a strong selection against League One leaders Leeds.

The Yorkshire club, who pipped Ferguson's men to the domestic title in 1992, have been in the third division of English football for three years but as recently as a decade ago were significant top-flight contenders.

The teams' first meeting since Leeds were relegated in 2004 is eagerly awaited and the visitors are set to bring 9,000 supporters to Old Trafford.

But Carrick is looking forward to his first taste of this most intense of fixtures.

"Experiencing those types of feisty atmospheres are why you play football," Carrick said.

"Rivalries like that add extra spice. It is great for the fans and good for the players.

"No matter where you play, or whether the atmosphere is for or against you, it is a great feeling to play.

"Besiktas were very hostile when we went there earlier this season (in the Champions League) but it was still terrific to play in.

"Leeds are bringing a lot of fans and we are looking forward to it. It should be a cracking game."

United have lost two of their last five matches at home but beat Wigan 5-0 last time out and Carrick is desperate for them to continue their improvement at Old Trafford against Leeds.

"We have not hit top form all season, especially at home," Carrick conceded. "We have just been doing enough to get through. We know we are better than that and now is the time to do it."

Ferguson has hinted that Gary Neville will play against Leeds and he will use a similar side to the one that thrashed Wigan.

Leeds have not won at Old Trafford since 1981 and they go into Sunday's match as huge underdogs.

But midfielder Jonny Howson insists they have nothing to fear, having narrowly lost 1-0 to Liverpool in the League Cup earlier this season.

"They have big players but we want to test ourselves and impress against these players," Howson said.

"We have players who can hurt and you saw that against Liverpool (in the League Cup). We caused them problems.

"I saw an interview with Jamie Carragher where he said we were their toughest game up to that point so I don't see why we can't cause them (United) problems on Sunday."

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