Manchester United encourage Chris Smalling to be more vocal
Sir Alex Ferguson has already expressed his delight at Chris Smalling's introduction to life at Manchester United. Now he wants the defender to start shouting at his team-mates.
Smalling started his seventh consecutive game for United at Old Trafford on Saturday when he anchored a beleaguered defence in the 1-0 Barclays Premier League win over Bolton.
It continued an incredible debut season with the Red Devils for the 21-year-old, who has confounded low summer expectations about the number of games he would play after arriving from Fulham.
However, it is not just the volume of matches that has taken Smalling by surprise. He has also had to assume far more responsibility.
With Rio Ferdinand missing for chunks of the campaign and skipper Nemanja Vidic also falling victim to United's defensive injury curse, Smalling cannot afford to let others dictate to him, which is why Ferguson and his coaching staff are urging the Londoner to let his team-mates know he is around.
"The coaching staff want me to start expressing myself a bit more," said Smalling.
"They think I am a bit quiet on the pitch. But it is starting to come. With more games I am sure that confidence will come across.
"At set-pieces in particular you have to be a figurehead when you are in central defence.
"You have to dictate and make sure people are marking. I have to make sure that comes across."
Not that Smalling is dismissing the value of experience.
He realises the value of having Vidic alongside him earlier in the campaign.
"It is important to have an experienced player with me," he said.
"I have not really faced these kind of strikers before, so having someone around to help has made it a lot easier. It gives you the confidence to cope."
That confidence has already come to the attention of England boss Fabio Capello, who drafted Smalling into his squad for the November friendly against France.
Although the former Maidstone star has since dropped back down, the exposure to senior international level was an eye-opener, even if he is looking no further ahead than this summer's European Under-21 Championships in Denmark.
"I have not thought about England," he said.
"I am very happy with the under-21s and we have the tournament in the summer that I would like to go to because I have helped with the qualifying stages.
"I am just focused on that."
Ferguson will doubtless remind Smalling that there is plenty to occupy his mind for the next couple of months as United chase glory on three fronts.
Smalling has already been indoctrinated in the United mantra of the Premier League being the most important prize of all.
"The more games we have to play the better," he said.
"You want to be in all the competitions right until the end and maintain the excitement.
"I know there are world-class teams from all over Europe in the Champions League.
"But that tournament is about what happens on the day.
"The league is the one I would really like to win. Finishing top after 38 games would be a big achievement."
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