United star’s atonement vow

Manchester United

Chris Smalling is desperate to make amends for losing the title to Manchester City when United face their derby rivals in three weeks.

Fingers were pointed in his direction when Vincent Kompany out-jumped Smalling to head in the only goal of last May’s pivotal 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium – a result which drew City level on points before the dramatic season finale.

Smalling, who was at fault for Christian Benteke’s goal at Villa Park last week, is feeling his way back into the first-team after a long spell on the sidelines – but is targeting a much stronger performance in the next derby.

“I was marking him at the time,” said Smalling. “But he got away.

“I just need to make sure we make amends, go there and win and don’t lose like last season.

“It’s going to massive game, although it won’t decide the title or anything.

“But it could go a long way in terms of, mentally, how teams cope and whether they win or lose in the subsequent games.

“We’ll be hoping we can go into that game all firing and give them something to really worry about.”

Smalling admits the derby encounters with City have got bigger each year, with so much more at stake every time they meet.

“You’ve got the local rivalry alone,” he added.

“Then add on top of that what happened last season with the title, losing both games to them and it’s all geared to us making sure we don’t lose