Manchester United’s struggling centre-back Chris Smalling has revealed that he is desperate to earn a place in Louis van Gaal’s first-choice XI next season, despite the fact that many deem him to not be good enough to make it at the top level.
The Manchester Evening News today relays quotes from the defender which confirm he wants to be integral to Van Gaal’s plans moving forward in order bolster his England chances for the future. It’s widely thought that United are looking to follow up their supposed deal for Ander Herrera with the capture of a new centre-back, which could see Smalling slip further down the pecking order.
The 24-year-old, who’s next campaign at Old Trafford will be his fifth, however, is keen to ensure that he is given plenty of game-time.
"It's the end of the season so obviously we will go on a break and next season I will look to really kick on and cement my position,” the former Fulham star said.
"Roy knows that I am a centre-back and I really want to cement it and be that number one.
"I feel that if I get my chance like I did today, I can go out there and deliver.
"Hopefully if I can go back to my club in the summer and really cement it, I can hopefully cement it for England as well. I am ready for this chance and it is about time I took it."
Van Gaal’s plans
It remains to be seen where Smalling will fit into Van Gaal’s plans for next season, as the Dutchman is keen to drastically improve his squad following their shortcomings last term. Whilst the capture of a new central midfielder may have been his primary concern, adequately replacing Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand is a necessity that the 62-year-old will not be able to overlook, and there’s few who believe that the defenders currently at his disposal are up to the task.
Potential new additions
United have been linked with a number of players who could potentially put Smalling’s claim for a starting XI berth under further duress, including Borussia Dortmund star Mats Hummels and the highly-rated French defender Eliaquim Mangala. The former is a seasoned European professional who has the experience and reputation to effectively fill the void left by Vidic, whilst the latter’s incredibly high price tag - thought to stand at €45million - would mean that if Van Gaal moved for him he would be under pressure to give him plenty of game-time.
Whilst Smalling has never looked out of his depth in the Premier League there are those who have questioned his claim for a spot in a side which is looking to challenge on all fronts, and the likes of Phil Jones and Jonny Evans would have cause to feel hard done by if Van Gaal was to make him a first-choice player at their expense.
With Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill both slowly creeping towards the twilight of their respective careers it’s no wonder that Smalling has set his sights on solidifying his claim for a regular starting spot under Roy Hodgson. Having already made 12 appearances for England, and of course earned a place in this summer’s 23-man squad, he will be hopeful that he could feature more often in the future, though once again the emergence of John Stones could threaten his position.