With swashbuckling Manchester City boasting a 13-point lead and game in hand, it is little wonder that manager Jose Mourinho has already conceded the title to their near neighbors.
United will keep plugging away in hope more than expectation but finishing second is the main goal away from their Champions League and FA Cup tilts.
Having never finished lower than third in the Premier League under Sir Alex Ferguson, they have failed to finish higher than fourth since he retired as a champion in 2013 - a side Smalling was part of.
"I think obviously we've been second for quite a while and that needs to be our bare minimum," the United defender said of the Premier League.
"The fact we get to play Liverpool at home as well I think is a big advantage. If we can separate ourselves from Chelsea and Liverpool and work our way up then we can do that.
"But I think that's our (goal) first and foremost."