The 25-year-old has transformed himself from a shaky defender susceptible to a big mistake every game to one who has led by example with some great performances.
He showed mental strength to overcome the red card against Man City and speaking about his new deal, van Gaal insisted Smalling was now an important player for him at the club.
“Chris has improved and developed immensely during the short time that I have been at the club and has become an integral part of the first-team squad,” he said.
“He always conducts himself in a very professional manner and it is also pleasing that he has scored some important goals this season too. I am delighted he has signed a new contract.”
Out of all the experienced defenders in United’s squad, Smalling is the one who has developed the most. Jonny Evans’ worrying decline has continued this year, Phil Jones has had purple patches of good form just like Marcos Rojo has but they haven’t showed the sort of consistency which Smalling has.
What will be interesting is to see what the future holds for Smalling next season after van Gaal brings in new signings but for the time being he is firmly in United’s best starting XI.