Reds must return focused
Manchester United’s internationals temporarily turn their attentions away from the title race in the next two weeks, but Chris Smalling insists that the Reds must have it in mind to return ready and focused for two big games that could help define the season.
Smalling will be on England duty for their World Cup qualifying games against San Marino and Montenegro, but when he returns to Manchester with five other Three Lions colleagues they must prepare to face Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League for a 12:45 GMT kick-off on Saturday 30 March, then Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final replay on Easter Monday, less than 48 hours later.
“The 15-point lead looks good now,” says Chris, “but we go away to join up with our national teams and hopefully everyone can come back fit because we then have two big games against Sunderland and Chelsea. That could be a key edge in terms of how the league and cup goes. So that will be a big few days for us.”
The title remains United’s top priority, particularly after last season’s heartbreaking finale. “It’s a massive incentive for us to hold onto this lead,” Chris told MUTV. “It’s a bigger lead than last year but we can’t rest on our laurels and we want to make sure we finish the job this season.”
Smalling isn’t short of company in the England squad. He is one of six Reds in Roy Hodgson’s ranks alongside Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, while Rio Ferdinand was forced to pull out due to a pre-planned medical and training programme.
Ferdinand’s performances could mean he is selected for England in future and Smalling welcomes more familiar faces in the England fold.
“All through the season it has started to pick up in terms of how many United players are in the squad,” Smalling added. “With Phil coming back there could be eight of us. That’s good to keep people around you that you know.”