When Christopher Smalling arrived at Old Trafford back in 2010 from Fulham few people could have predicted just how important he would become at Manchester United. Smalling is now 25 years of age and it looks now that he is really hitting his prime. Sir Alex Ferguson brought Smalling to the club and used him sparingly to build his experience, using him in a right back position to help him learn the division, but persistent injuries to the centre backs at Man Utd over the years forced his hand and drew Smalling into the position. The arrival of Phil Jones in that time also put Smalling on the back burner with many predicting Jones to be the one to blossom and become an integral member of the Manchester United first team. How times have changed, it is almost customary now to see Smalling’s presence at the heart of the Manchester United defence. The development of Smalling in this time has been remarkable, learning his trade from fellow professionals like Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Having made over 100 appearances now for Manchester United, last season saw him start more games than any other season, and Louis Van Gaal quickly became a fan of the England defender. Now third in line as club captain and undoubtedly the first choice defender at the club. So how has he managed to grow into the role?
Well one factor is confidence, watching Smalling now compared to previous seasons, here is a player who knows how important he is to his club, he looks polished up in every department and looks so comfortable doing his job now. Rio Ferdinand earmarked Smalling as a future Manchester United and England defender and how right he is, but the influence Rio has had on him is evident. His composure on the ball has greatly improved and his distribution is almost reaching the level of Rio Ferdinand, also when you watch Smalling’s reading of the game it resembles instincts of Ferdinand as well, covering his full back was Rio’s bread and butter and now it seems the same for Christopher.
Most importantly for Smalling is he is staying injury free, that was his biggest hindrance since joining the club which resulted in him not getting a run of games, however now he looks sharp and in great shape to stay clear of any real serious injuries. Must be said that the partnership he has formed with Daley Blind this early in the season looks highly impressive, Smalling attacks the high balls and marks the bigger men allowing Daley to cover in behind and take what is in front of the Manchester United defence, looks a very strong partnership and long may it continue for the Utd fans.
Smalling has also emerged as a top international defender. Finally he looks to be number one choice for England and it is almost a question of who partners him. With Smalling still young at 25 the chance to partner Smalling with Stones must give England optimism with the future of their defence. Maybe even a future Manchester United defensive partnership. Christopher has now developed the leadership qualities also to take the armband for club and country. A big season for the Manchester United defender but he looks at the top of his game and will be looking to be going to the European championship and England’s number one defender.