Manchester — Manchester United gave Manchester City a warning sign of what is to come next season, United defender Chris Smalling believes after the Red Devils’ incredible comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
City would have sealed the Premier League title with victory over their local rivals and are still well set to win the league for a fifth time as they boast a 13-point lead over United with six games to go.
By fighting back United consolidated their place in second, four points clear of Liverpool, and sent a message that they can compete with City next season.
United also still have a shot at silverware when they face Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semifinals in two weeks’ time.
"It’s about making sure that we can stand up tall against our rivals," Smalling said. "This is definitely sending out a marker for the rest of the season and beyond. We’ve got some great objectives. Making sure we own that second spot and the fact that we’ve got Tottenham in a semi-final is a great reward in that competition. We need to make sure we get to that final."
United’s fightback was kickstarted by Paul Pogba who silenced his critics after a disappointing season by scoring twice in two minutes. United’s other marquee signing of the Jose Mourinho era, Alexis Sanchez, also came good after a poor start to his time at Old Trafford by setting up Pogba’s second and Smalling’s winner.
"Alexis is always looking to thread those balls and Paul’s runs are a danger to any team," said Smalling. "It’s good they’ve been able to link in together."
Smalling was relieved to net the winner 21 minutes from time after being outmuscled by City captain Vincent Kompany for the hosts’ opening goal. "There’s no better feeling than to score and make up for the first goal, which was my mistake. But when you get a chance like that to make amends is a great feeling."