Chris Smalling: Shape was the key to Manchester United's victory over Arsenal

Smalling was the senior defender in a youthful looking back line at the Emirates Stadium for Manchester United.

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has been reflecting on the side's first away win of the campaign, after United left the Emirates Stadium with a precious 2-1 victory over Arsenal to lift them to fourth in the Premier League table.

Smalling was part of a young back three against Arsenal as he lined up alongside Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair as Louis van Gaal's injury ravaged side put in a spirited display to thwart Arsene Wenger's men.

An own goal from Kieran Gibbs gave United the lead before Wayne Rooney doubled the visitors' lead. Substitute Olivier Giroud got a consolation for the home side with a stunning strike in stoppage time.

Smalling said the key to United's victory in North London on Saturday evening was the shape of the side as they moved into the Champions League places.

He told the Manchester United website: "We had to stay compact and keep our shape, but also a lot of people threw their bodies on the line for the team. There was real strength and solidarity in our commitment as a team because Arsenal had a lot of shots and they play the ball quickly around the penalty box. Time after time we put a block in and we really wanted to make sure we came away with a win.

"It's been our story this season, that we have had to change the team and the formation quite a lot. It's not ideal but we've had to make do. Against Arsenal, just as we have tried to do all season, we stuck together to get the result."

Smalling was the most senior defender in the side as Louis van Gaal has had a retched injury crisis to deal with at Old Trafford, but the side did themselves proud at the Emirates Stadium as the Dutchman reverted to three at the back which he experimented with earlier on in the season in order to minimise the effect the absence of key players has on the side.

It could prove to be a pivotal win in the context of their season given Arsenal want to hold on to Champions League football for next season. United moved into fourth place, and given it was their first away win of the campaign, it could be crucial as they strive to put last season's disappointing seventh-place finish behind them and return to Europe's premier competition.

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch