Chris Smalling says Manchester United will regroup after their damaging defeat to Chelsea as they desperately try to close the gap on runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Jose Mourinho’s team – who kept pace with Pep Guardiola’s City in the early weeks of the campaign – go into the international break second in the Premier League, but a whopping eight points behind their rivals after Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Stamford Bridge.
There has never been a bigger gap between the top two after 11 matches in Premier League history, and Guardiola’s swashbuckling side are heavy favourites to win the title.
Unbeaten City have set a frightening pace this season, winning 10 of their matches and scoring 38 goals in the process to build up an extraordinary goal difference of plus 31.
United, level on 23 points with Tottenham and a point ahead of Chelsea, have to wait a fortnight to try to close the gap, and defender Smalling has warned Newcastle they face a difficult afternoon when they return from the international break.
“It is unfortunate (to have to wait),” the centre-back told Manchester United’s in-house broadcaster MUTV.
“I think we’ll have to regroup and make sure that – our next game is at Old Trafford – we put on a performance to rectify this.
“It is about us getting back to Old Trafford for that game and putting on a performance that the fans can be proud of.”
Alvaro Morata – a summer target for United before Romelu Lukaku arrived – got between Smalling and Eric Bailly to head home Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross and United could not find a way back.
“I think it was two teams there who can defend and who have got very good attacking players,” said the England international, left out of Gareth Southgate’s latest squad for matches against Germany and Brazil.
“I think it was always going to be a close game, and we just fell asleep on their one big chance, unfortunately.
“It was disappointing from us because we’d watched a lot of their videos, and we knew about Azpilicueta coming up and putting in those crosses. So, for us to know what their game plan was and to fall asleep is very disappointing.”