Chris Smalling has refused to rule out the prospect of joining AS Roma on a permanent deal next summer.
The Englishman, a favourite of Jose Mourinho, has not featured at all for Manchester United this season as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer places emphasis on defensive duo Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.
It was confirmed on European deadline day that Smalling had joined Roma on a season-long loan for a fee of €3m.
Speaking at his official unveiling, Smalling admitted that he would consider joining the Serie A side permanently if this season went well.
“This is an opportunity that came to me that I was very interested in, and I was very eager to come,” he said.
“It happened very quickly and now I focus on the next game, getting up to speed with training in terms of the manager’s methods and then hopefully have a very good season.
“To be able to have the chance at a big club, and then if it prolongs and the club is happy then I can definitely see a longer-term future in Italy.”
The loan deal, contrary to Radamel Falcao’s loan move to United, does not include an option-to-buy clause, which means that a fresh set of negotiations and terms would need to be laid out before Smalling leaves Old Trafford for good.
With United moving in a fresh direction under Solskjaer, Smalling, a true bastion of the post-Fergie era, may well decide that his interests are best served by remaining in Italy, a country where defending is considered an art form.
His first outing as a Roma player could come against Sassuolo on September 15.