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Premier League

Smalling looks a secure asset in United defence, declares Vidic

Nemanja Vidic is predicting a big Manchester United future for young defender Chris Smalling.

With Rio Ferdinand fit and back to form, Smalling knows he is facing a spell back on the substitutes' bench. It is a feeling the 21-year-old gets used to as the pressure and intensity increase over the final weeks of the campaign.

But Vidic insists that Smalling's long-term future is secure. In an eight-game run until Ferdinand's return from a calf problem at Stamford Bridge last week, the Greenwich-born player had shown clear signs of the ability that persuaded United to splash out £7m on his services in the summer, even though Smalling had made just 19 first-team appearances for Fulham.

He has already gone past that number for United and Vidic is confident there will be plenty more to follow. "Chris has done very well," the Serb told United Review yesterday. "He didn't have any trouble stepping into the team and he showed everybody how good a player he is.

"It has been a great season for him and he has a big future in front of him. He is only 21, so it is a massive achievement for him to have played so many games at his age for this club."

Meanwhile, the tough-tackling central defender has revealed a softer side to his nature. It is Vidic's strength and power that have got him shortlisted for the PFA Footballer of the Year award. But the 29-year-old has admitted he can be almost reduced to tears just watching a film.

"I know I have a reputation for being strong but I am only human," he said. "I cry during very sad moments. There was one film, The Notebook, that really touched me too.

"I was watching it alone, sitting in the dark, and I got very involved in the story. I almost cried. Almost."

United take on Manchester City in the first FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, followed by Bolton Wanderers against Stoke City on Sunday and Bolton's England defender Gary Cahill has urged his team-mates to savour the Wembley experience.

Cahill believes if they can relax then Stoke will be overcome and a place in the FA Cup final secured. "Without putting too much pressure on the boys we are all well aware of what's riding on the game. It's one of those things you have just got to relish. No one should be worried or afraid.

"You just have to go out there with a smile on your face and remember you're playing at Wembley in front of 80,000 people. I was there the other week, so I sort of know what to expect. I think it will be a similar sized crowd, so it's something the lads can look forward to."

The Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, has to decide whether to retain the defender Zat Knight, who returned after a knee injury for the win against West Ham, or recall David Wheater.