Smalling: “Jones and I have already filled Ferdinand and Vidic void” The England international acknowledges that he and his fellow Red Devil had to step up after Louis van Gaal’s arrival at Manchester United but feels they have earned his trust

Chris Smalling feels that
he and Phil Jones have
proved themselves as
Manchester United’s
first-choice defenders
after a “make-or-break”
season.

The centre-back had previously struggled to
hold down a regular spot in the United
team, partly due to the presence of long-
time pairing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja
Vidic.

After the experienced duo left to join QPR
and Inter respectively, an opportunity arose
for Smalling and fellow England international
Jones to stake a claim under Louis van Gaal.

Although Smalling did miss a portion of the
season due to injury, he subsequently
returned and produced a string of
promising performances, with a new four-
year deal in April evidence of the 25-year-old
successfully navigating what he believed to
be a crucial season for him at Old Trafford.

Asked by reporters if he and Jones could fill
the void left by Ferdinand and Vidic, Smalling
replied: “I think we have. It’s one where it
just builds over time and we’ve had our
chance this season and now it is all about
building on that next season.
“I think it was make or break, considering
the outgoings at centre-back last summer.

“It was a chance where players had to step
in and luckily I’ve been one of those who
has had a good run, especially in the second
half of the season.

“Apart from the start of the season, when I
had a few injuries, I’ve been able to have a
good run and the manager has shown faith
in me at United.

“We take more risks at United than the
majority of teams but the manager wants us
to play. That is something we have fully
taken on board because that is his style, and
I think that has helped me when playing in
the games.

“On the back of that it was nice to get
another England game [against the Republic
of Ireland] to carry on the season. Now it is
all about building on that next season.”

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