Manchester United defender Chris Smalling admits the Red Devils’ Champions League last-16 tie with Marseille is on a knife-edge ahead of the second leg clash at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side head into the return leg with Didier Deschamps’ French champions with the score goalless from the first meeting at the Stade Velodrome, meaning a solitary away goal could prove costly for the home side.
United exited Europe at the same stage to fellow Ligue 1 outfit Monaco in 1998, with David Trezeguet’s goal at Old Trafford proving enough to eliminate the Red Devils following a stalemate at the Stade Louis II.
And Smalling says he is wary of lightning striking twice, but believes home advantage will ultimately prove crucial.
“It’s a bit of a dangerous scoreline with the way the away-goals rule works. It makes things interesting for the neutrals, but a bit nerve-wracking for the players and the fans. Being at home is a massive advantage for us though and we’re confident of going out there and getting the result,” he says in United’s matchday programme for the Marseille game.
“We need to keep things tight at the back because if they score it’ll mean we need to score twice. If they do come at us and attack I’d like to think it will create more gaps for us and I’m confident our creative players can work their magic.
“Obviously, you don’t want to risk conceding the away goal, but I think the manager will want us to go at them. Our defensive record has been very good at home this season so if we can get ahead we’ll have a great chance.“
PROGRAMME: Ferguson calls for volatile atmosphere
Former Fulham stopper Smalling has shone at the heart the Red Devils’ back-line in the absence of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, earning praise from French newspaper L’Equipe following his first leg display.
The 21-year-old puts his assurance in Europe down to his experience playing in the Europa League with Fulham last season, when the Cottagers went all the way to the final.
“Keeping the clean sheet was a big thing for us especially in what was quite a hostile atmosphere. It’s nice to hear those comments and I think the experience I got from playing for Fulham in the Europa League last season has certainly helped me settle in the Champions League.”
Read Chris Smalling's interview in full in Tuesday's edition of United Review ahead of the Red Devils' Champions League tie with Marseille at Old Trafford, priced at £3 in and around the ground. To subscribe, call 08456 777801 or visit www.themagazineshop.comcomments