Manchester United defender Chris Smalling insists second 'is a realistic target' and believes current form is good enough to achieve it

Sunday's 3-0 win over Tottenham has reinvigorated United's hopes ahead of a difficult season run-in

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Chris Smalling insists Manchester United are capable of overtaking bitter rivals Manchester City and finishing second in the league.

United put on their best display of the season on Sunday as they swept aside Tottenham in a near-effortless 3-0 victory at Old Trafford.

The impressive performance raised hopes and expectation levels at the club and Smalling thinks United are well-equipped to sustain that kind of performance level for the rest of the season.

United are two points behind City, who lost to Burnley on Saturday, and just one point adrift of third-placed Arsenal.


And Smalling is convinced finishing second above City is not just a pipe dream.

"Yes, I think we could, especially after City's result on Saturday," the United defender said. "It is all very close.

"I think it's very open all the way up to second place and we will be aiming for that, especially when we are playing those teams coming up.

"We want Champions League football back here. It's a must. Fourth is the minimum but when it's there, second is a realistic target and if we keep on performing like that I don't see why we can't give it a good push."

United face Liverpool, Aston Villa, City and Chelsea over the next four weeks and then host Arsenal on the penultimate weekend.

Many viewed the difficult run-in as a reason why United could fail to qualify for the Champions League, but Smalling views the situation in exactly the opposite way.

"These games are six-pointers," the England centre-back said. "We can do ourselves a favour and do our rivals big damage as well.

"Sunday was the first step. It was the perfect time to put in a performance like that, especially with our run of fixtures.

"Confidence will be good, it's one of the biggest games of the season and hopefully we can play like that again."

A video released by The Sun on Sunday, appearing to show Wayne Rooney being knocked out by Stoke defender Phil Bardsley, dominated the build-up to the match.

Rooney's knockout celebration against Tottenham

But Rooney poked fun at the episode by shadow boxing during his celebration for his goal at Old Trafford.

It was not the first time Rooney has been at the centre of controversy during his career and it was interesting on Monday that he picked out another player who had a rollercoaster career - Paul Gascoigne - as his favourite English footballer during a Chevrolet Google+ Hangout.

"I think he's probably still, to this day, the greatest English player. For excitement and goals, he was my favourite player," the United and England captain said.

Asked what it was specifically about Gascoigne that Rooney liked, he said: "His ability to turn games round on their head and produce magical moments. He was a perfect entertainer on the pitch."