Smalling has been in superb form this season and he is currently considered to be one of the Premier League’s best defenders.
Pundits have credited van Gaal’s coaching methods as the reason behind the transformation of Smalling, who was far too inconsistent in previous years at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal believes Smalling has become a “different” player during his time in charge of the club.
“We have just developed players which is the essence of why I am a coach”, van Gaal said.
“I like to help players in their development and he has developed himself in many, many ways. Not in one particular aspect, but in many aspects and that’s why you can see he is a different player for yourself.
However, van Gaal stopped short of labelling the Englishman as crucial to his side.
“I don’t want to answer that question [about how crucial he has been] because it is too positive”, van Gaal added.
Although van Gaal wouldn’t like to say it, Smalling is indeed a crucial part of United’s current set-up. The defender has been in imperious form for a number of months now and he is a large part of why United have a good record defensively this season. Van Gaal rightly deserves a huge amount of credit for his turnaround in form, which has only got better since Smalling’s red card against Manchester City last season.