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Football: United must win all matches to reach Champions League, says Smalling

Published on Feb 3, 2014 7:10 PM
 
Manchester United's defender Chris Smalling leaves a news conference in Leverkusen, on Nov 26, 2013. Manchester United must win their 14 remaining English Premier League matches to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, according to defender Chris Smalling.-- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Manchester United must win their 14 remaining English Premier League matches to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, according to defender Chris Smalling.

The champions remain marooned in seventh place on 40 points, seven off fourth-placed Liverpool and England's final spot for Europe's premier club competition, following Saturday's 2-1 defeat by Stoke City.

Their first league loss to Stoke since 1984, which put them a whopping 15 points behind leaders Arsenal, was their eighth of the season and came despite United being able to start Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata together for the first time.

The Old Trafford club last missed out on Champions League qualification 19 years ago.

"Each point that we drop makes it difficult for ourselves," Smalling told the club's website (www.manutd.com) on Monday.

"We can only take the next game as it comes, and other teams will drop points as well, but we need to stop dropping points. We need to put pressure on other teams.

"We've got Fulham and then Arsenal so we've got some big games. We're back at Old Trafford next week and hopefully the fans will get right behind us and that will lead us into the Arsenal game."

Although the arrival of Mata from Chelsea and the return of Rooney and van Persie from injury briefly raised spirits at Old Trafford, United still have injury problems, with Rio Ferdinand and Nani among players still sidelined.

They also lost defenders Phil Jones and Jonny Evans during the Stoke match, with the former suffering concussion and the latter a calf problem.

"We don't really talk (about the Champions League) but we all know if anything that's the minimum we need to aim for," Smalling said.

"If we can get on a good run, we've got the players - obviously we lost a couple on Saturday, but we've got a week now until we next play so hopefully we can patch them up and get as many bodies out there as we can."