Chris Smalling is thriving in his new role as Manchester United’s main centre-back and insists he enjoys taking on the mantle of being the brawn in defence.
Ever since his red card away at Manchester City last season, Smalling has shown gradual improvement but his commanding start to the Premier League season has shown he is capable of so much more.
Three performances so far have shown fans how good Smalling can be and speaking about adopting the role of being the ‘bully’ in defence, the 25-year-old is happy to take on that mantle.
“That is the case,” he said when asked about bullying defenders.
“I have always liked that competition with the striker and obviously Daley (Blind) 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.
“I wouldn’t say I hadn’t done it previously in games because I feel like I bullied quite a few players in matches.
“But it’s a case of making sure there is that consistency and, hopefully, I can get that consistency where it can be on show every week.”
Smalling has progressed more in the last six months of his United career than he did in the previous three years and it’s a testament to his own hard work which has put him in this position.
Centre-back is still considered a weak point in the squad due to the fact one or two injuries could send it into a downward spiral again but Smalling is happy with everyone he is playing alongside at the moment and is enjoying himself on the pitch.
He added: “I feel like I am playing well and I am enjoying my football.
“It is good to keep playing each game and knowing that there are not too many changes at the moment because we are doing well, so I hope to keep that up.
“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.
“He has played at wing-back and full-back as well. All across the back four, they can look after themselves – Luke (Shaw), (Matteo) Darmian as well.”
United have kept three consecutive clean sheets in the opening games of the Premier League this season for the first time in ten years and few fans would have ever expected that to happen.
Matteo Darmian‘s addition, Daley Blind‘s rise to prominence as an unlikely centre-back, combined with Smalling and Shaw finding their best form, as well as Sergio Romero‘s assured start in a United shirt, have all contributed to help make what looks like a very solid defence.
Now, if United could only be equally as impressive with their chance creation and finishing in the final third, then we’ll have won the Premier League by Christmas.