Chris Smalling eager to seize Manchester United chance

Chris Smalling is determined to seize every opportunity to prove he is worthy of a Manchester United first team place.

Smalling capped an excellent first half-season at Old Trafford following his surprise move from Fulham by claiming man-of-the-match honours in last night's win over Stoke.

Despite making his first Premier League start, the 21-year-old performed with admirable maturity in subduing a powerful Stoke front line.

Predictably, Sir Alex Ferguson led the praise for a youngster who, less than three years ago, was playing in the non-league for home town club Maidstone.

But, after starting seven times earlier in the season, including four in the Champions League, Smalling has found more recent appearances restricted, partly due to United having two matches postponed, but also as the importance of the games themselves increases.

Given the Red Devils' next two games are against Liverpool and Tottenham, Smalling knows he could be consigned to another short spell on the sidelines.

However, whilst the England Under-21 star accepts his fate for now, he is keen to impress Ferguson enough to come into consideration as more than just a mere deputy to Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

"It is nice to hear some positive words from the manager," he said.

"At the start of the season I got to play every other week but I haven't had a game for the last few weeks. Hopefully I can make my presence felt and get many more.

"For the time being, it is all about concentration and consistency.

"That will improve the more I play. I know Vida and Rio are the first choices, I just have to make sure I do equally well when I come in, so I know I am playing my part."

Ferguson might not always have got it right in the transfer market, and there are still plenty of question marks over Bebe, the winger who was signed on a hunch after a meteoric rise through the Portuguese league, but as Smalling represents one-third of last summer's business, and Javier Hernandez another 33%, the United boss can be quite pleased with himself.

Hernandez took his seasonal tally to nine with an outstanding opener at Old Trafford last night and has already produced performances that have earned him hero status amongst the club's legion of supporters.

The first Mexican to play for United might shy away from comparisons with club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the ease with which he has settled into English life is impressive, as are his skills on the training ground.

"Chicharito is dangerous," said Smalling, of the forward known back home by his nickname, Little Pea.

"Even in six-a-sides during training he can be a nightmare to mark.

"You have to keep your wits about you because he can come from left or right. He really deserved his goal."

For the majority, still scratching their heads as to how this United outfit, supposedly so inferior to Ferguson teams of the past, can find themselves in such a superior position in the table, the answer probably lies in the contribution of men such as Hernandez and Park Ji-sung, now on Asian Cup duty with South Korea but scorer of vital goals earlier in the campaign.

So, United have reached the 20-game mark unbeaten and ready to resume their quest for a record 19th championship at Tottenham on January 16 knowing they have managed to gain some breathing space over their rivals, who have failed to keep pace.

"When you look at how Chelsea started the season, firing on all cylinders, it is credit to us that we are where we are," said Smalling.

"Hopefully we don't have that dip and we can keep going strong.

"The thing is, we keep winning, we are unbeaten and we are looking down on everyone else.

"We need to keep picking up points, as we have done over this Christmas period in particular. To come out with 10 points from four games is pretty good.

"Overall, everyone in the changing room is really happy with the way things are going. Long may that continue."

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past