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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson wants to avoid Southend slip-up

Sir Alex Ferguson has called on his Manchester United team to raise their game in an effort to avoid embarrassment at Roots Hall tonight.

Although the Premiership leaders are firm favourites to book a third Carling Cup quarter-final appearance in four years at the expense of Championship basement-boys Southend, Ferguson only needs to look back a fortnight - to the previous round against Crewe - to see what nasty surprises could lie in wait.

The Red Devils chief, who celebrated 20 years in the Old Trafford hot seat yesterday, freely admits his side are fortunate to be in the fourth round at all after scraping through at Gresty Road courtesy of Kieran Lee's extra-time strike.

And he accepts United must do better if they are to maintain their interest in the competition.

'The young players who played in that game were provided with a reminder that certain things happen in cup games,' said the United boss.

'You have to battle and you need to play well because if you are a bit off the boil, you can be embarrassed.'

The scare United had at Crewe means Ferguson is taking no chances at Southend.

Apart from the senior members of his squad, all his fit first-team stars will make United's first competitive trip to Roots Hall, including Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, although the star duo could be on the bench for the holders - to be used only in an emergency.

The win over Wigan in last year's final represents the only meaningful silverware United have collected over the past two seasons.

With his side off the pace in the Premiership and humbled in Europe, Ferguson did his best to put a positive spin on the Millennium Stadium triumph last February, insisting any year in which the Red Devils won a trophy was a good one.

But, although the Scot stands by his theory, he accepts that for a club of United's size and stature, the bigger prizes are the ones they should really be aiming for.

'Success is good,' he said. 'Winning trophies doesn't do anyone any harm. Everyone enjoyed the atmosphere and the victory in Cardiff last year.

'Hopefully we will win more this year but we would be disappointed if it was just the League Cup, that is always the case.

'The demands of this club are to win big trophies and that demand is not something outside our capabilities.'