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Away to go for United

Smalling: Wins at Watford and Burnley a timely tonic for Champions League

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NO SMALL’ MEASURE: Chris Smalling fires home Manchester United’s second goal in Saturday evening’s win at Watford.

NO SMALL’ MEASURE: Chris Smalling fires home Manchester United’s second goal in Saturday evening’s win at Watford.

NO SMALL’ MEASURE: Chris Smalling fires home Manchester United’s second goal in Saturday evening’s win at Watford.

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.

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IN FRONT: Romelu Lukaku puts Manchester United ahead in the Premier League win at Watford

IN FRONT: Romelu Lukaku puts Manchester United ahead in the Premier League win at Watford

IN FRONT: Romelu Lukaku puts Manchester United ahead in the Premier League win at Watford

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.

Preparation

Asked if the Burnley and Watford victories act as good preparation for European competition, Smalling said: "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 that we needed to win.

"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.

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A pleased United boss Jose Mourinho

A pleased United boss Jose Mourinho

A pleased United boss Jose Mourinho

"We knew that we would 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." Mourinho admitted he was particularly pleased about Smalling's winner because United had worked on the set-piece routine in training.

Smalling extended United's lead in the 37th minute after Ashley Young's drifted aerial ball was knocked down by Marouane Fellaini at the far post.

Smalling controlled Fellaini's header with his chest, swivelled and lashed a left-footed volley past Ben Foster.

"Because we trained the corner during the week, the best thing that can happen to coaches is you train and you see it happen in the match," a happy Mourinho said.

"And they are happening even in these last few matches, even in the one against Tottenham. Things that are working, the positional, the movement.

"But the set-pieces are very specific things that you work, you work, you work and for weeks and weeks and weeks sometimes you don't see the results of that work. So when it happens it was happiness for coaching staff."

"I think we should be winning three or four nil and kill the game," Mourinho said.

"The same happened against Burnley but we kept a clean sheet and the result was always safe. But when we concede a goal in an emotional place like Vicarage Road and against a team that is very dangerous with the way they play very direct, they are strong in set pieces it will always be difficult.

"The Marcus Rashford sending off against Burnley was more difficult with 24 minutes to play but Saturday was just a few minutes. But it could have been crucial in a defensive set piece in a corner when Matic had a job to do and wasn't there to do.

"They brought everybody up and created emotion with that lateral free-kick and the last corner but again I think Paul scores the goal in the last action of the first-half, and that would be job done, we don't do that.

"In the second-half our ambition went a bit down, we gave them the chance to be more aggressive and they scored.

"I thought we could always score the third goal and kill it but we had lots of half-chances to kill the game and we didn't so the game is open until the end."

"And then when you are in trouble you need to resist the trouble and you only resist that if you're a team .

''David was almost without interventions but then at the last his hands were there for us."


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