Michael Carrick: Man United can beat Man City to second in Premier League
Manchester United duo Michael Carrick and Chris Smalling have Manchester City in their sights as they target second place in the Premier League.
United closed the gap on the defending champions to two points with Sunday's 3-0 win over Tottenham, and midfielder Carrick believes they could become the top team in Greater Manchester once again.
Fourth-placed United opened up a six-point lead over Spurs, though Liverpool, City and table-toppers Chelsea are among their next four opponents.
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Carrick, 33, feels his side have a chance to take points off their rivals starting with Sunday's trip to Anfield, but he thinks the objective is to overhaul City and be runners-up, saying: "We have got to aim for that. We're within touching distance now. You look at the table now and it is so tight.
"But I suppose really we've just got to look to next Sunday. There are going to be ups and downs because that is how it is, especially in the last nine or 10 games. Sunday is a big game for a lot of reasons and that is probably all we can focus on at the moment."
Centre-back Smalling concurred, saying: "Especially after City's result [a 1-0 defeat at Burnley], it is all very close. There is only a point between us and [third-placed] Arsenal and I think it's very open all the way up to second place and we will be aiming for that, especially when we are playing those teams coming up.
"We want Champions League football back here. It's a must. Fourth is the minimum but when it's there, second is a realistic target and if we keep on performing like that I don't see why we can't give it a good push.
"I think now was the perfect time to put in a performance like that, especially with our run of fixtures. I think we can do ourselves a lot of favours. These are like six-point games so we have got a lot to play for."
Carrick is in his ninth season at Old Trafford and this is the first in which he has not played in the Champions League.
He said: "For this club it's the place to be, isn't it? We had been in it for so long and not being involved on the big nights makes you realise what it is all about."
Carrick scored in the victory against his former club Tottenham and thinks it is probably the first time he has found the net with his head as a professional, saying: "That's definitely my first headed goal for United and I can't remember getting one with Spurs or West Ham -- you probably have to go back to my youth team days since the last one."
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The England international feels it was United's finest display under manager Louis van Gaal, adding: "It was probably a big step for us in terms of the size of the game and to play like we did I think will give everyone a big boost and big shot of confidence.
"I think it has to be our best performance of the season given the importance of the game. It came together well today. We were a real threat going forward, we controlled the game well, and had a really good balance.
"We had a good tempo, we attacked with speed, and we had penetration when we did go forward, we kept the ball when we had to, and got the balance right really. All in all we can't be too picky, it was a good all-round performance."