Smalling: We can build momentum at crucial time
Chris Smalling believes Manchester United's consecutive, morale-boosting away wins have set a solid platform at the start of a key period of games.
The Reds have emerged victorious from testing trips to Burnley and Watford in the Premier League either side of the international break, winning 2-0 at Turf Moor before Saturday’s 2-1 success at Vicarage Road.
Smalling feels that Jose Mourinho’s men can sustain the feel-good factor heading into a crucial run of matches in different competitions, starting with Wednesday’s first UEFA Champions League Group H game away at Young Boys.
It promises to be a tough test as the Swiss outfit are bound to be up for what is their first match at this stage of Europe’s elite competition, and they play on an artificial surface – something Chris has experienced before.
“I have played on a 3G pitch for England against Lithuania a couple of times,” the defender told reporters. “We will be travelling over a little earlier to make sure we train on that pitch [at the Stade de Suisse] so we can get used to it but, on the back of two away wins, I think we can build that momentum at a crucial time of the month where there are so many games.”
The Reds have responded to back-to-back defeats against Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur with a steely determination and maximum points from both games played in September so far.
When asked about the team’s mentality, Chris said: “I think it has definitely come together in the last couple of games. Obviously, Burnley was comfortable through the whole game; the first half [against Watford] was comfortable and the second was about digging in when we knew we weren't always going to have it our own way, but all credit to all 11 players out there.”
I JUST THOUGHT 'WHY NOT'?
Less than three minutes after Romelu Lukaku had opened the scoring in the first half at Watford, Smalling added to it with a stunning volley, which proved to be the decisive goal after Andre Gray pulled one back for the Hornets after the break.
“You are just hoping it falls to you and I just chested it quite high and I thought 'why not'? I just lashed at it and luckily it went in,” Chris explained, after latching on to Marouane Fellaini’s knockdown from an Ashley Young corner.
“If any [of my team-mates] had money on me to score a volley, then I’m sure they’ll win, but we have been working a bit on set-plays, not volleys. I think we have a lot of height in our team and I don’t think we threaten enough at set-plays, so it was good that we caused a few problems.”
DAVID IS ALWAYS THERE!
Smalling’s goal may not have been so crucial had it not been for David De Gea’s stunning save to deny Christian Kabasele’s header late on – and Chris feels the Spaniard’s contribution, after having a largely quiet game, only serves to illustrate that he’s the best in the business.
“Ultimately, for most of the game, he didn't have much to do, but what makes him one of the best in the world is that he doesn't have much to do and stands up in the last minute when it is a crucial time, and that's where the best goalkeepers are,” our no.12 commented. “They don’t switch off and David’s always there!”