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 Tuesday night's win over Stoke and was praised by boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

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

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

"That will improve the more I play. I know Vida (Nemanja Vidic) and Rio (Ferdinand) 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 on Tuesday 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."

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