Smalling was handed the captain’s armband against Arsenal on Sunday, but Theo Walcott’s equaliser meant United are likely to finish fourth and face a play-off to reach the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition.
But despite securing a top-four finish as they looked to recover from their seventh-placed finish in 2013-14, the England international does not feel Louis van Gaal’s side can be fully satisfied with their campaign.
“It’s not a season where we’re massively celebrating, it’s a step,” he told reporters. “Next season we know that won’t be good enough and our fans at the end today were terrific.
“Hopefully next season we’ll be having a parade with something to really cheer about.
“I think as the season’s gone on, we’ve got better, but Chelsea’s consistency from day one has won them the title. Sometimes they didn’t play well and still won games – they saw off games like this one [against Arsenal].
“They would have probably won it 1-0. Next season it’s a case of starting on the front foot and keeping that consistency.
“In these games you need to get that second goal and unfortunately we didn’t, and we paid the price at the end. All the lads came in and it’s almost as though we lost the game.
“Everybody’s pretty dejected. We’ve still got another game and then we’ll look back and say that we have performed against the bigger teams.
“It can only look good for next season, when hopefully we’ll be more consistent.”