(Reuters) - A second place finish in the Premier League is the “bare minimum” for Manchester United, defender Chris Smalling has said.
United’s 2-1 win over champions Chelsea last Sunday left them 13 points behind league leaders Manchester City, who have played one game fewer, with 10 matches remaining in the campaign.
While Jose Mourinho’s side have been in second position for a majority of the season, recent slip-ups have allowed their rivals to reduce gap with third-placed Liverpool just two points behind and fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur four points adrift.
“I think obviously we’ve been second for quite a while and that needs to be our bare minimum,” Smalling told British media. “The fact we get to play Liverpool at home as well I think is a big advantage.
“If we can separate ourselves from Chelsea and Liverpool and work our way up then we can do that.
“But I think that’s our (goal) first and foremost.”
Chelsea are fifth in the standings, six points behind United, who last finished in the league’s top three positions under former manager Alex Ferguson in 2013.
United travel to Crystal Palace on Monday before a crucial match against Liverpool on March 10 and Smalling believes the victory over Chelsea and playing at Old Trafford will give them an edge over their bitter rivals.
“I think being able to beat a rival, it’s almost like a six-pointer because of how close we are,” the England international added. “The confidence just breeds (confidence) and we’re ready for the next one.
“I think all of us, especially that top five, are probably all going to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
“These are huge games and I think the fact we play a lot of our rivals at home is going to be a big factor because of our home form.”
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in BengaluruEditing by Amlan Chakraborty