Smalling: United can overhaul City
Chris Smalling insists Manchester United are capable of overtaking bitter rivals Manchester City and finishing second in the Barclays Premier League.
United put on their best display of the season on Sunday as they swept aside Tottenham in a near-effortless 3-0 victory at Old Trafford.
The impressive performance raised hopes and expectation levels at the club and Smalling thinks United are well-equipped to maintain that performance level for the rest of the season.
United are now two points behind City, who lost to Burnley on Saturday, and they are just one point adrift of third-place Arsenal, who visit Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend of the season.
And Smalling is convinced finishing second above City is not just a pipe dream.
"Yes, I think we could (finish second), especially after City's result on Saturday," the United defender said.
"It is all very close.
"I think it's very open all the way up to second place and we will be aiming for that, especially when we are playing those teams coming up.
"We want Champions League football back here. It's a must. Fourth is the minimum but when it's there, second is a realistic target and if we keep on performing like that I don't see why we can't give it a good push."
United face Liverpool, Aston Villa, City and Chelsea in the next four weeks.
Many viewed the difficult run-in as a reason why United could fail to qualify for the Champions League, but Smalling views the situation differently.
"These games are six-pointers," the England centre-back said.
"We can do ourselves a favour and do our rivals big damage as well.
"Sunday was the first step. It was the perfect time to put in a performance like that, especially with our run of fixtures.
"Confidence will be good it's one of the biggest games of the season and hopefully we can play like that again."
For Michael Carrick, it felt like old times at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The midfielder has become irritated at the lack of big mid-week action against top clubs at United this season and is pining for the return of Champions League football.
"For this club it's the place to be isn't it? We had been in it for so long and not being involved on the big nights makes you realise what it is all about," said Carrick, who scored the second goal against Tottenham.
"Hopefully when that pressure kicks in, and it goes up and up, then we perform even better and we're going to have to in the weeks to come."
Louis van Gaal's methods had come into question after a series of slow, unimaginative displays, but Carrick says he and his team-mates support their manager.
"The players are behind him, of course," Carrick said.
"It is just that results prove everything don't they?
"We can improve on the training pitch, we can get better there, but it is all about what we do on game day really.
"And Sunday was a big step for us.
"I think it will give everyone a big boost and big shot of confidence.
"And it shows we are moving in the right direction, which is good."