Chris Smalling agrees United comeback win was like throwback to Ferguson years
Sir Alex’s teams were famed for staging late fightbacks to snatch vital points.
Chris Smalling believes Manchester United’s recovery from two goals down in Monday’s 3-2 victory at Crystal Palace shows they are recovering the spirit of the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Since the former United manager’s retirement in 2013, the team have often appeared to lack many of the traits they consistently demonstrated during his reign. Their refusal to accept defeat while the Scot was in charge inspired some of their highest-profile wins.
They have gradually improved since Jose Mourinho’s appointment in 2016, but while it remains to be seen whether the Portuguese can bring back the glory days they enjoyed under Ferguson, the response on Monday was perhaps the clearest indication of his ability to do so.
United trailed to goals from Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt, the second of which came moments after Mourinho’s introduction of Marcus Rashford as a half-time substitute and the manager’s adoption of a more attacking shape. Smalling, Romelu Lukaku and then, in stoppage time, Nemanja Matic then each scored to secure an unlikely victory.
The three vital points took United back up to second in the Premier League.
Asked if the performance and spirit reminded him of playing under Ferguson, the 28-year-old Smalling said: “Yeah, it did. There’s not been many games where we’ve come back — granted, there’s not many games when we’ve gone 2-0 down — but you can see how close we are as a group that everyone celebrated together, and how much it means to us, because that was a huge win.
“Our intensity really increased and you could see probably four of (Palace’s) guys cramping up, and that gave us that edge where we thought we could go after them. Even when it was 2-2, where in some games you’d probably take that after being 2-0 down, we went after them. It was great.
“It shows that no matter how bad we might be playing in that first half, that we can go after teams. Doing it away from home – our home record’s a lot better than our away form – that’s a huge win.
“We walked in (at half-time) and already knew we weren’t playing enough, needed to increase it, and conceded so early as well (in the second half) with a sloppy goal. We had everything in front of us to do, and we did it.”
Defeat was regardless cruel on relegation-threatened Palace, who remain 18th and without a victory in six despite playing well.
We didn't deserve to lose last night after that performance, the fans were brilliant from the first whistle. We have to pick ourselves up and go again, back to the training ground. 9 big games to come. #CPFC 🔴🔵 pic.twitter.com/gPCn0VRqya— Christian Benteke (@chrisbenteke) March 6, 2018
Townsend had continued to impress after scoring the opening goal.
But after Palace’s second defeat in a row following a late goal — they previously conceded in the closing stages to Tottenham in a 1-0 reverse when also impressing — Townsend told the club’s official website: “Everyone is devastated.
“Twice in eight days we’ve thoroughly deserved at least a point, if not all three. We’ve been undone by a bit of quality right at the end.”