Manchester United's Chris Smalling Relishing Tough-Man Role
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is enjoying “bullying” opposing forwards and says he is comfortable playing alongside centre-back partner Daley Blind.
Smalling and Blind have started all United’s games this season as part of a defence which is yet to concede a goal in the Premier League.
Ahead of United’s Champions League play-off second-leg with Club Brugge on Wednesday night, Smalling says he is relishing his new-found role in Louis van Gaal’s side.
“I have always liked that competition with the striker and obviously Daley is not that sort of centre-back who is going to dominate, so it’s a case of I take that mantle on and I am enjoying it,” he said.
“I feel like I bullied quite a few players in matches in the past but hopefully I can get the consistency where it can be on show every week now.”
The England international added: “It’s comfortable playing next to Daley. Sometimes if there is a big opponent we will swap around. But he can handle himself as well so I am enjoying playing alongside him.”
Smalling’s team-mate Adnan Januzaj is also demonstrating a recently-acquired toughness after spending extra hours in the gym.
The United midfielder, who failed to score in 22 appearances for the Red Devils last season, struck the winner in this month’s 1-0 victory at Aston Villa.
However, the Belgium international failed to make a meaningful impact as United were held to a goalless draw against Newcastle on Saturday, and was taken off after 66 minutes.
“I’m working hard on the pitch and off the pitch, as well as in the gym to work on my body. I have always been more of a technical player, trying to find spaces to create something with the ball,” the 20-year-old told the club’s official website.
“But working hard in the gym gives you the plus of being stronger and more able to push people off the ball.
“I have started to get back to my fitness but I still need more rhythm to become even better.”