Smalling to cement position under Van Gaal?

Manchester United and England defender Chris Smalling is looking to cement his place in the first team at Old Trafford under new manager Louis van Gaal, who will take over the reigns of the club after his Netherlands side have participated in the FIFA World Cup. Smalling made his first and last appearance for England in the prestigious tournament as England bowed out with a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica on Tuesday evening. The 24-year-old is now entering his fifth season at the Old Trafford club and is one of three experienced central defenders with Phil Jones and Jonny Evans after Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand ended their time with the Red Devils at the end of last season. The Manchester Evening News reported the defender as saying:

“It’s the end of the season so obviously we will go on a break and next season I will look to really kick on and cement my position.

“Roy knows that I am a centre-back and I really want to cement it and be that number one.

“I feel that if I get my chance like I did today, I can go out there and deliver.

“Hopefully if I can go back to my club in the summer and really cement it, I can hopefully cement it for England as well. I am ready for this chance and it is about time I took it.”

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Smalling was one of the better defenders last season, after all five experienced players suffered spells on the sidelines throughout the season. The England international really needs to knuckle down if he wants to fill the void left by Ferdinand and Vidic, but with rumours linking the Old Trafford club to other defenders this summer, the writing may already be on the wall for the England man. Borussia Dortmund and Germany central defender Mats Hummels has been linked to the club for most of the summer and Netherlands defenders Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi have also been linked, all three could do a job at the Old Trafford club in the new season. Smalling, who played the full 90 minutes in England’s last FIFA World Cup match before heading back to England spoke about England’s performance and the fans disappointment, which was also their only clean sheet of the tournament, saying:

“It was a really touching moment that they were really right behind us at the end.

“Even when we got to the hotel in Belo Horizonte, they were cheering us all the way despite the disappointment.

“You could accept it if they turned on us but they didn’t – they have been terrific all the way through, it was great to see and it will drive us on for next time to make sure we deliver.”

The England international signed for United in the summer of 2010 coming from Fulham and he was tipped as the long-term replacement for Rio Ferdinand, but has so far failed to cement his position in the side. Personally I like Smalling as a player, but last season he struggled with injury and mediocrity under David Moyes. He is a player that United really need to keep hold of, being English and all, but he really does need to dig deep to impress the new manager, starting from this summers pre-season tour of the United States of America, depending whether the players that participated in the FIFA World Cup are part of the initial squad who travel out to America in just over a fortnight. Smalling, Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata and David De Gea, who all so far bowed out at the group stages, could be part of the tour.

By Paul Bienkowski

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