CHRIS SMALLING admits last season’s title-race drama at the Stadium of Light has proved a motivating factor for Manchester United all season, writes CHRIS YOUNG.
United thought they had done enough to lift the Premier League crown on Wearside last May after holding on to secure a 1-0 victory over Sunderland on the final day.
But as Sir Alex Ferguson’s players swapped shirts with their counter-parts after the final whistle, they discovered City had grabbed two late goals to seal a first league title in 44 years.
Smalling says that humbling experience has been the driving force behind United’s formidable form this season, with the league leaders looking to increase their 15-point margin at the summit when they return to the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
“The way we lost the title at Sunderland has been a motivating force all of this season,” said the England defender.
“Even when we’ve been a goal behind, there have been a lot of comebacks to get things from games.
“I think people have been looking back at last season and you don’t want to experience that feeling again. I think it has shown throughout the whole season so far.
“It was one of those situations, going into the Sunderland game, where we didn’t think we had a chance.
“But to get so close in the end to winning the title, made it even worse.”
Smalling is one player who could be given an opportunity by Ferguson tomorrow, with the United boss expected to rest his key figures for Monday’s FA Cup quarter final replay at Chelsea.
“We’ve got Saturday-Monday and there are a lot of games coming up,” added the former Fulham defender.
“I hope to make an impact and keep the season going.
“They are two big games, one in the league and one in the cup, and could go a long way to deciding those competitions.”