Manchester United want Community Shield showdown vs. Manchester City - Phil Jones
MANCHESTER, England -- Phil Jones said Manchester United have added incentive to win the FA Cup because it would set up a Community Shield clash with Manchester City and give them the chance to put down an early marker ahead of next season.
United manager Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his desire to challenge for the title next season, and Jones insists getting a crack at the champions at Wembley on Aug. 5 -- a week before the new season begins -- would be a good way to start.
"It's another good reason why we need to do that," Jones said. "We've been involved in a lot of Community Shield games and that's one we relish and we like facing tough opposition as well."
United finished 19 points behind City, who set new records for points and goals. Mourinho's team beat each of their top-six rivals but dropped points against six of the bottom eight.
Jones said winning the FA Cup this weekend would provide a boost ahead of next season and insists United are not as far behind City as some might think.
"It will be our last game of the season," Jones said. "If you win that, you finish on a positive note and you go into the next season feeling confident and ready to go and ready to battle again for the title next season. I really don't think we're far away.
"In another season we might have been challenging. Sometimes you've got to hold your hands up and say Man City have done ever so well to win the league this year, take nothing away from them. They've competed well in every game and won games where you're thinking they probably would have drawn."
United face Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday having beaten each of their top six rivals in the last three months of the season.
Antonio Conte's side lost 2-1 at Old Trafford in February and Jones said their form against the top teams bodes well ahead of next season.
"I think we've done very well against the top six," he said. "We've competed well, battled well, and I think in every game we've deserved to win.
"There's not a game where you think, it could have gone either way, I think we've deserved to win the games.
"Again, that shows the direction that we're moving in and the progression we're making. We need to keep doing that and winning the FA Cup final will be another step in the right direction."
Chelsea head into the final on the back of a home draw against Huddersfield and a dismal 3-0 defeat at Newcastle that ruled out any chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League.
There is speculation Conte could be sacked after the game but Jones insists United will not be taking them lightly.
"They are a good defensive team," he said. "They are set up well. They have good little players -- [Eden] Hazard, Pedro, a big lad up front who scores goals in [Olivier] Giroud. They are a threat. That is why they are a top-six club. We have to go and match that and beat them."
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.