Chris Smalling: Everton defeat was massive wake-up call
Chris Smalling hopes Manchester United's 3-0 defeat to Everton will serve as a "massive wake-up call" to those who felt Champions League qualification was already in the bag.
If results had gone their way, United would have started this week second in the Premier League, but now they are looking over their shoulders after dropping to fourth in the standings.
After winning six on the bounce, United have lost successive games for the first time under Louis van Gaal and they will be just four points ahead of Liverpool if Brendan Rodgers' side win their match in hand versus Hull tonight.
Smalling agreed with Van Gaal's assessment that United lacked aggression from the first whistle and he wants an instant response from his team-mates on Saturday when West Brom come to Old Trafford.
"This is a massive wake-up call for us," the United defender told MUTV.
"Right from the first minute we were off the pace and they had a pressure that we usually have.
"We haven't been the second-best team in games this season, even when we've lost, we've always had that aggression and those tackles but on Sunday we were far from it.
"I think we'll see a different Manchester United next Saturday against West Brom. We'll make sure we learn from this, the fans deserve a lot better."
Smalling's team-mate Juan Mata echoed Smalling's thoughts.
"We can't afford another game like this one," the Spaniard wrote on his blog. Mata has challenged his team-mates to secure a Champions League place by winning all their four remaining games.
After West Brom's visit this weekend, United head to Crystal Palace and then host Arsenal before rounding off the season at Hull.
"We are in the final stage of the season and we must try to win each of the remaining games," said Mata, who was substituted in the 63rd minute after a poor showing at Goodison Park.
"The goal is to get four wins in the last four games of the Premier League.
"We need to return all the support we get from our fans (at Goodison Park they were brilliant, once again) and we hope to do it this coming Saturday at Old Trafford against West Brom.
"We all want to be in the Champions League next season and, in order to get there, we must go back to the right path with good performances and good results."
United's chances of making the top four would decrease if Wayne Rooney were ruled out for part of the run-in.
The United skipper was replaced by Robin van Persie in the 88th minute after suffering a kick to the knee.
The sight of the 29-year-old hobbling off prompted fears among the United fans, but the medical staff were happy to allow the striker to travel to London on Sunday night for the PFA Awards."