Defender Chris Smalling is confident Manchester United’s 2-1 win at Arsenal can serve as a platform on which to cement their place back in the top four of the Barclays Premier League.
United recorded their first away win under Louis van Gaal after weathering an early onslaught from the Gunners, when goalkeeper David De Gea saved one-on-one from Jack Wilshere.
A bizarre own goal from defender Kieran Gibbs, who had clattered into goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, which forced him off with a hip problem, on 56 minutes turned the momentum for United, with captain Wayne Rooney clipping home a late second on the break.
Although Olivier Giroud, back from three months out with a broken foot, reduced the deficit with a 20-yard drive in stoppage-time, there was to be no grandstand finale to prevent Arsenal slipping to a second straight Premier League defeat.
While the Gunners are down in eighth, United moved up to fourth place.
Smalling feels the Red Devils have what it takes to stay there.
“Given the manager and the players we have got, we should be playing better than we are, with more points,” the England defender said.
“But we have a good base now with an away win and now we can go back to Old Trafford and build on that.
“We showed a lot of character, we did not play that well and we will go through the video to see what we could have done better.
“We have two home games coming up, and we need six points, then we can have a look at where we are in the table.”
Asked whether a place in the top four was a realistic target, Smalling replied: “That is always a minimum for this club.”
United’s makeshift backline had been depleted even further after England left-back Luke Shaw limped off with what could prove to be a serious ankle injury, having left the stadium in a protective boot and using crutches.
Smalling, though, believes inexperienced defenders Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett deserve credit for helping to keep the likes of former United forward Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at bay.
“A lot of our shape was about making sure we were compact, being able to deal with their attack which can sometimes be through three or four players,” said Smalling, who turned 25 on Saturday.
“We had to make sure we were always talking, leading each other along, because if you switch off for any moment, they can nick it, so we just had to deal with each threat that they can bring.”