When many other defenders would be basking in the -well-deserved- limelight of Smalling’s superb derby day showing, the young defender was quick to thank Rio Ferdinand for the part he played.
Speaking to the the Manchester Evening Blues, sorry News, Smalling said: “There was an emphasis on me coming into the team because Rio has been so solid, so to play my part in such a massive game and a big title match was brilliant.
“The players around me make it so much easier. They are always talking to me. When I had my first touch I just felt like one of the other lads who play regularly every week.
“I was talking to Rio on Friday and he was giving me little pointers. He has played with and against Carlos Tevez for many years and seen him in training every day for a couple of years so he was giving me little bits of advice on how to play him.
“He was making the point that Carlos likes to feel the defenders at his back. So you let him have his touch before you move in and go for him. It was great advice because he is a tricky player. It was a really good challenge for me.
“To have that knowledge to tap into is incredible. You get so much feedback with players you are playing with, players who are injured like Rio and the many coaches we have. It really puts me at ease and allows you to enjoy the occasion.
“It is great to have that pre-match advice but you also cannot beat first-hand experience. You can watch as many videos as you want but until you face them it is different.”
It seems Smalling has that rare attribute that players like John Terry and Cesc Fabregas could only dream of- humility. which is seldom seen in such commanding and confident figures on the pitch.
Smalling’s performances just keep on getting better and against City on Saturday he was a strong contender for man-of-the-match.
Whenever I’ve seen Smalling being interviewed I’ve always been impressed with the way he comes across, he seems an honest, decent guy which cannot be taken for granted in the current climate of Bentley driving, arrogant footballing playboys.
Smalling’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric, going from Maidstone to Manchester United in less than three years. It seems though, that the sudden ascendancy hasn’t gone to Smalling’s head.
News that Rio Ferdinand is giving Smalling advice- and more to the point, the former Fulham man is actually heeding it, will be just what United fans want to hear. With Rio’s injury problems well documented, United may need Smalling a lot more often than we’d wish, but that needn’t be too much of a cause for concern.
While Smalling has a long way to go to reach the level of the England captain, there’s no doubt that he’s certainly on the right track and if he keeps on improving then one day he may even surpass his mentor’s achievements.
For the time being, hopefully Ferdinand can keep fit enough to play in the majority of games, as for me he’s still the best defender in the world and his organisational skills can never be underestimated.
With Smalling as his understudy, the future’s looking bright for United, now if only we had a young goalscoring striker who could deputise for Rooney and Berbatov, then we’d really have it all………
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