Manchester United’s improved performances and markedly different style of play in recent games has led to questions over whether van Gaal has adapted his philosophy and changed it.
By the sounds of it, Smalling and Man United’s other players have put ideas forward to van Gaal and he’s listened to them, rather than simply ignoring them.
“It is good to see he is listening and that he’s put his trust in me,” Smalling said.
“It’s nice that he’s made me captain and it’s a responsibility I like. It gives you an edge to set a standard others can follow.
“Van Gaal is receptive to other people’s ideas. Obviously, he has his own philosophy and the way he wants to work, but he has been willing to listen and not just to us three. Others have also pitched in with their suggestions and that’s how we can have a much better relationship going forward.”
The one thing I feared above all else under van Gaal recently was that I felt he had an inability to change, driven by pure stubbornness based on previous successes. Yet, our games against Derby and Stoke show we are capable of putting things to one side and adopting a different approach, an attacking approach which brought great results even if it did have a lot less possession.
United have got to play to their strengths right now and the momentum carrying us into Stamford Bridge really is excellent. Chelsea are a far harder task but as Smalling has explained, van Gaal’s willingness to discuss and adapt is helping the team, even if it may prove to be too little too late.