Chris Smalling believes two hard-fought away victories is the perfect way for Manchester United to prepare for the return of the Champions League.
The England defender scored what proved to be a crucial second goal in a 2-1 win at Watford on Saturday evening, following on from a 2-0 victory away to Burnley before the international break.
Romelu Lukaku gave United the lead at Vicarage Road before Smalling volleyed in an impressive second – only for Andre Gray’s strike to give the visitors a nervous end to the game.
But, despite Nemanja Matic’s sending-off in stoppage time, Jose Mourinho’s side hung on to claim their first back-to-back Premier League wins of the campaign.
— Chris Smalling (@ChrisSmalling) September 15, 2018
Now Smalling feels the players are ready to tackle the Champions League, with their group campaign kicking off away to Swiss Super League champions Young Boys on Wednesday.
Asked if the Burnley and Watford victories act as good preparation for European competition, Smalling told MUTV: “Yes it does.
“Getting two wins on the bounce and coming into a month where there are so many games, I think we are building momentum at the right time.
“We knew that Watford had confidence and we knew that if we didn’t get the third goal the last 10 minutes would be how it played out but we all dug in and knew we needed to win.
Jose on @ChrisSmalling‘s goal:
“We trained the corner during the week, and the best thing is when you see it happen in the match. He was good. The only thing I don’t like about Chris is the haircut, but I am nobody to tell him that!”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 15, 2018
“When they pulled one back it was a bit against the run of play. But then after that, I think it was about digging deep.
“We knew we’d be deeper than we wanted to be, they chucked on another striker and it was a bit of clock-watching in the last 10 minutes, I’m not going to lie.”
Watford went into the game having won their opening four Premier League games – including a comeback victory over Tottenham last time out.
Javi Gracia’s side were not at the races in the opening 45 minutes but rallied after the break, leaving defender Craig Cathcart looking at the positives ahead of a trip to Fulham next weekend.
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) September 16, 2018
“Our heads were down at half-time but we wanted to go out there and give it our all,” he told the club’s official website.
“I think we did that, we can be proud of the second-half performance and it will probably give us a bit of momentum going into next week.
“2-0 at half-time is never going to be easy but I think we probably deserved to come out with something at the end of the game.
“It is disappointing but there are positives we can take away from our reaction and it is important how we react to this first defeat of the season and next week we have to show what we are about.”
– Press Association