Chris Smalling has disagreed with Sir Alex Ferguson over who Manchester United’s biggest opponent in the Barclays Premier League is, with the defender insisting that there is no bigger game than the City derby.
Smalling is yet to start in a match-up with City, and with the 21-year-old moving up to Manchester from London last year when he signed for United, he found the experience of being a part of the hype very intimidating at first.
“Straightaway when you come here to the city the Manchester derby is something everybody talks about,” Smalling told M.E.N. Sport.
“I was on the bench at Eastlands last year in my first season at United and then I played in the Old Trafford game I remember the build up to the first one was immense so I cannot begin to think what this next few days will be like.”
And Smalling, who admits to being an Arsenal fan before he left London, said that the atmosphere of the game reminded him a lot of when the Gunners used to take on Tottenham.
“Yes I was an Arsenal fan and loved the derbies I went to see against Spurs,” he said.
“I loved the passion of the occasion. But I am very much United now and this derby has overtaken the North London one in my mind.”
The youngster, who has been a star for United since moving from Fulham last year, said that winning this game means more than any other in the season, showing just how strong the cross-town rivalry is.
“It is one game I want to win more than any other. I think this is the biggest game and biggest derby we face now,” he explained.
“City have been investing and growing steadily and have hit some great form this season. I think they are an even bigger threat this year than last. Given the amount of changes they’ve made and another year on and they are tighter as a bunch of players and more together.
“They have bought good quality in. They will get stronger as they know each either more and more. They have started to show on the pitch you have to take them seriously. City are a real force to be reckoned with now and it is down to us to make sure we counter that.
“I think it is great to have that challenge on your doorstep. A lot of the fans enjoy the rivalry but the players relish it as well. It is a big test.
“I certainly relished the game I played in last February. I really felt a part of United after that win.”