Derby victory restored Manchester United’s belief, says Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling believes Manchester United showed their strength of character to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup at Eastlands

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Chris Smalling believes Manchester United’s FA Cup triumph over Manchester City has given Sir Alex Ferguson’s side the belief to retain their Premier League title.

United had suffered successive league defeats ahead of their third-round clash with City but the Red Devils’ sealed a 3-2 victory courtesy of Wayne Rooney’s first-half brace and Danny Welbeck’s 30th-minute strike.

“The biggest thing it did was give us a morale boost at a time when people were starting to write us off,” Smalling told United Review.

“Instead of crumbling we went to City and beat them on their home turf, even if we made hard work of it in the second half. Winning that game showed a lot of character.”

“Even had it been against different opposition or in a different competition, it would have been essential to win that game.

“Everybody expected us to take maximum points against Blackburn and Newcastle because we’d done well against Wigan, Fulham and QPR. So to lose those two matches hurt a lot and prompted a lot of criticism.

“It made the FA Cup tie even more of a must-win game. We were determined to show the world we could still perform and I think we did that in the first half.”

Smalling admitted United struggled to cope with injuries during the festive period and were made to feel the absence of captain Nemanja Vidic and midfielder Darren Fletcher in particular.

However, the England right-back believes the defending champions are gradually returning to full strength ahead of their Premier League trip to Arsenal on Sunday.

“I think we’ve probably had more injuries than any other club in the league,” he added. “I definitely don’t think many teams have lost players of the calibre of Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher for such lengthy periods. And yet we’re still going strong, we’re still challenging for the lead and we’re even getting a few players back now, which will be crucial for the title run-in.”

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