Chris Smalling has insisted that Manchester United’s players still believe they can claim the Premier League title this season following their recent winning run.
Tuesday’s 2-0 first leg win over Hull City in the League Cup semi-final ensured that Jose Mourinho’s men extended their winning run to nine-games – and their unbeaten run to 15 games – ahead of Sunday’s clash with Liverpool.
A win over Liverpool – currently in second spot – would take Man United to within two points of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
And Smalling, speaking after the game against Hull, made it clear that Mourinho’s men hadn’t given up on their title hopes for this season.
“Before facing Reading on Saturday we knew that we had three games in three different competitions,” he said.
“We knew that if we could keep the winning run going then we couldn’t have more confidence going into one of the biggest games of the season. Everyone is really up for it.
“Now we can switch our attention to that game. I think we’ll recover on Wednesday, then we have a good few days to work on the tactics on how to nullify their threats and to really impact our own play to keep this run going.
“We know how important this game is at the top end of that table.”
United appear to be stuck in a kind of cruel sixth place twilight zone despite their recent winning run. But monumental progress has indeed been made, even if it isn’t reflected in their league position: only five points separate Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Arsenal and United going into the business end of the season, and a continuation of positive league results – starting, of course, against Liverpool, which is arguably the most important game of United’s season so far – could see Mourinho’s side suddenly shoot up the league table.
Whether anybody – let alone United – can catch Chelsea, however, remains to be seen, but nobody can doubt that Mourinho’s men are heading in the right direction.