Sir Alex Ferguson will have signed Chris Smalling with a view to the youngster being the long term successor to Rio Ferdinand. The England captain should prove to be the ideal role model for the former Fulham defender and the young centre back is fully aware of this.
“Rio is great to play with, so is [Nemanja] Vidic, so I cannot be in a better atmosphere to be learning my trade,” he said.
Even after a handful of appearances for United, comparisons have been made between Smalling and Ferdinand, an encouraging sign for any young centre back. Smalling has experienced a somewhat meteoric rise to the big leagues, from non-league Maidstone to playing in the Champions League for one of the world’s biggest clubs, in just two years.
It’s fair to say the 20-year-old hasn’t looked overawed since his £10 million move from Craven Cottage this summer. Since Smalling made his debut for United in the Community Shield against Chelsea, he has appeared in the Champions League against Rangers, and scored his first goal for the Red Devils in the 5-2 win over Scunthorpe in the Carling Cup. The Betfair Football odds suggest Smalling could get a taste of silverware this season.
As well as establishing himself in the first team squad at Old Trafford, Smalling has also become a regular in England’s under-21 team, scoring the winning goal in their qualifying tie first leg against Romania.
While Ferdinand, Vidic, John O’Shea and Wes Brown are still in the squad, Smalling will probably spend the next few years being gently introduced into the team and learning from the senior pros at the club. Playing for United is a much different proposition than playing for other clubs and Fergie won’t put too much pressure on Smalling too early and United will benefit in the long term.
However, the manager will be aware that Smalling is more than capable of stepping up into the first team if needed. In the few Premier League games Smalling has played for both United and Fulham, the defender hasn’t looked out of place. He may get another chance to shine this weekend. The West Brom betting tips suggest United will pick up three points and it will be interesting to see if the manager decides to risk Ferdinand after he plays for England in midweek.
If Smalling fulfils his early potential, then both England and United look exciting prospect on their hands.