Marco Silva insists Fulham can spring a surprise at Old Trafford this Sunday and even go on and win the FA Cup – but he knows that will require a big improvement after the Whites slumped to two disappointing defeats in back-to-back London derbies.

The Cottagers head coach knows his team will need to be at their very best in order to win at Manchester United in Sunday’s quarter-final after shipping six goals in a week that saw them beaten by Brentford and Arsenal. Silva, whose side have reached the last eight of the Cup for the first time in thirteen years, was emphatic in this afternoon’s pre-match press conference that his ambition is to lift the trophy.

“We have to prove on the pitch that we are capable of doing it. If you ask me if I believe? I’m 100 per cent sure I believe. I’m not saying that we are dreaming of it. I believe we are able to do it if we are at our best level – full respect to Manchester United. I’m humble enough to say they are the favourites, at home, they’ve won the Carabao Cup.”

Silva has sensationally guided Fulham, who were widely tipped to go down at the start of the season, to ninth in the top flight but is still smarting from the way the Whites capitulated meekly to their local rivals last week.

“For us to be able to win the game we have to show improvement from our last two games, it has to be the first step for us to be able to be competitive. This football match is probably not natural for some of these players. But for some of the players it’s not something really new and I expect certain players from our team to pop up in these types of moments.

Because there are certain moments for the big players, for the big characters to pop up, and the others if it’s not natural it has to become natural. It will become natural if you are competing and having these games season after season.”

Fulham will boosted by the return of club captain Tom Cairney, who is available again after missing more than a month of football having injured his knee in the fourth round replay at Sunderland, and Willian. The Brazilian winger missed a potential reunion with his old club Arsenal after suffering a back strain, but has recovered to be part of the squad that travels north this weekend.