The Red Devils put in a battling display during their latest UEFA Champions League outing to leave Ukraine with a share of the spoils.
A point was enough to keep United top of Group A and they can now turn their attention back to domestic matters, where things have not been going quite so well.
Back-to-back defeats in the Premier League, and three in their last four, have dropped the reigning champions into 12th place, but Smalling believes United are starting to show the character required to turn their fortunes around.
He said: "It shows we can really stick together.
"We know a few results have not gone our way. But when there are a few doubts, we need to show we have a bit of character and fight
"Once the disappointment of that equaliser (against Shakhtar) subsides and we get back home, we will see it as a well-earned point that will allow us to move on.
"You can only build confidence through performances.
"This was half a performance. It wasn't great by any means but a well-earned point at such a hard place gives us some positives to work from."
United's next test takes them to Sunderland on Saturday, with Smalling looking for David Moyes' men to head into the international break with confidence flowing again.
He added: "After Saturday's defeat (to West Brom), this week was crucial.
"It was two tough away games and we have started pretty positively. Now we need to make sure we get three points on Saturday, then things will look a lot better going into the international break.
"If we don't get that win, we have two weeks to ponder on what may have been."