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Smalling: So exciting – and the journey's only just begun

Chris Smalling, one of the young Manchester United players who shone in Monday's 3-0 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur, summed up the vibrant mood at Old Trafford: "There is an excitement here because of the endless potential," he said. "We have nowhere near reached it and we are just looking how far we can go."

The average age of the United team on Monday was less than 24. Smalling added: "If the manager keeps giving us chances, it is up to us to take them, and the fans really get behind us. We play with a smile on our face. Everyone is enjoying it, whether it is training or these big games. That is what the manager has always emphasised – the need to go out and enjoy your football.

"A lot of the guys here who are middle-aged [in football terms] when I came here have stepped up to become the senior players. Look at Wayne Rooney – he is one of the senior players at the club now."

Smalling paid tribute to two of his youthful team-mates, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, who have returned from seasons on loan at Sunderland and Wigan respectively. "I watched a lot of Sunderland last season and I saw a lot of Danny tearing defences apart," said Smalling. "It is great to see him come back and do that for Manchester United.

"Tom Cleverley is a really clever player. For much of last season he was out on the wing but you can see his main position is central midfield. He speeds up the tempo of the play and that suits our young players."