Chris Smalling, the Man United defender, says that the least they can achieve this term is to finish on the top four.
The Man United center-back believes they can use the 2-1 victory at Arsenal last Saturday as the springboard on which to consolidate their place back into the top four Champions League qualification positions.
It was the first win for United this term away from Old Trafford although they had to first weather an early barrage of attacks from the Gunners.
Defender Kieran Gibbs scored a bizarre own goal which United fully took advantage of on the 56 minutes. Gibbs had earlier collided with Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, and the Poland shot stopper was forced out of play. This was the turning point for United as captain Wayne Rooney clipped home the second late into the match after a perfect counter-attack.
Despite Olivier Giroud, back in action after a 3-month absence with a broken foot, scored with a 20-yard screamer deep into the stoppage time to halve the deficit, it was not enough to stop the North London side conceding their second straight loss in the premiership.The loss pushed the Gunners to eighth position but United sauntered up four places to stay fourth and occupy the last Champions League spot. Smalling believes that United has what it takes to maintain that position.
“Given the players and a great manager that we have got, we actually ought to be playing a lot better than how we are playing currently. We need to be having more points than we have at the moment.” said the England International defender.
“But now we have a fantastic base with this away win and we can return to Old Trafford and improve on that,” he added.
According to Smalling, United showed a lot of character although he admits that they did not play well. He says that they will look at the video again to discover how they could have improved their performance.
There are two home games coming up and Smalling expects that they can collect the maximum six points. After that, they will see where they will be in the table. A wide range of tickets for Man Utd are already on sale for these upcoming games.
Asked whether United had realistic chances of finishing in top four, he replied that a top four finish the minimum for United.
Man United’s makeshift defence had even been further depleted after Luke Shaw, the close season signing from Southampton, had limped off with what looked like a grave ankle injury. He later left the stadium on crutches and in protective boots.
However, Smalling feels that inexperienced defenders Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair deserve praise for keeping Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at arm’s length.
“Our biggest concern was ensuring that we remained compact and be able to handle their attacks which sometimes happen to be through 3 or 4 players.” Smalling added.
“It was important that we always communicated and led each other forward since switching off at any time could result to them scoring. Therefore, we just had to handle any threat that they brought forth.”