Smalling has been in superb form as of late and is arguably the Premier League’s best defender right now.
While current captain Wayne Rooney has struggled this term, Smalling is only going from strength to strength.
Van Gaal admitted Smalling can make the step up and take the captain’s armband when Rooney and vice-captain Michael Carrick leave Old Trafford.
“So I push him also in that situation. Every player makes the steps by himself to improve. I put him in the situation and I help him in the situation and I advise and the player can take it on board or not. It is his responsibility. He has done it by himself. There is a lot of advice.
“It is about how we defend as a team. Smalling is a part of that and I wanted him to speak. He also has the talent to speak. That makes him easy to coach. Because of that I made him a leader of the team. He has made steps and also in a tactical way.
“When you give instruction in terms of organisation you need someone to understand that. He is a structured person. He accepted it more quicker. David de Gea [the goalkeeper] has the best view and then the central defenders so I demand of my defenders that they speak. They need also an overview. I put him in that situation and then he can develop or not. It is his choice.”
Smalling is really endearing himself to fans with his performances and it’s safe to say that there would be no qualms from the Old Trafford faithful if he was made captain someday. However, the defender’s immediate focus will be on the Manchester derby this weekend. A good performance from Smalling would go a long way to securing a positive result.