Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has insisted that he'd welcome competition from Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos if the Spanish international completed a move to Old Trafford in this transfer window.
As reported by The Guardian, Smalling, who was asked about the prospect of Ramos joining the club, has suggested that there will always be competition at Old Trafford, claiming that he's not fazed by being compared to the world's best defenders.
The England international, of course, enjoyed a fine end to the 2014/15 campaign, as he played a key role in helping the Red Devils secure a top four finish in the Premier League.
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And the defender has insisted that he's determined to maintain his recent strong performances and is desperate to stay injury free throughout the course of the upcoming campaign.
When asked about the club's interest in Ramos, Smalling responded by saying: “I think it’s a case of where at Manchester United there’s always competition. Even when I signed [the fresh terms] there were 5 centre backs who I had to work hard to get past.
Smalling vs the best
“So I always knew I was going to be compared against the best because United can always challenge for the best and I’m up for that challenge.
“I hope high performances can keep me in the team. I think once you set a new benchmark it’s a case of aiming higher and not letting your standards drop below that and I’m hoping for an injury-free start to the season and the season in general.”
Smalling, who featured in the club's first pre-season friendly clash with Club America, will no doubt be hoping to play a role in tomorrow's match with San Jose Earthquakes.
Huge season ahead
And it really is a huge season for the centre-back, who must now secure a permanent position in the United team for the long term. Ultimately, since arriving at the club, the defender has been in and out of the starting XI, failing to really establish himself as the main man at the heart of the club's defence.
Now, though, his recent performances have seemingly put him ahead of his teammates at Old Trafford, and it's time he kicked on, proving his consistency under Van Gaal. The former Fulham man became United's leader at the back towards the end of last season, and there's no reason why he won't be able to go on to become a top player for club and country.
Signing Ramos would no doubt prove a fine coup for the Red Devils, but Smalling must now stay focussed and prove his credentials. If he manages to perform next term, then he may well find himself at the heart of Roy Hodgson's defence for next summer's European Championships.
Manchester United fans: Is Smalling now your club's No.1 defender? Have your say below!