Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has hailed the performances of summer signing Matteo Darmian after a perfect start to the season at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils have won three straight in all competitions, conceding just one goal in the process - a deflected Michael Carrick own goal in the 3-1 Champions League win over Club Brugge on Tuesday night.
Darmian a bright spark
Darmian has featured in all three matches for Louis van Gaal's side in the right-back position, and England international Smalling has certainly been impressed with what he's seen so far from the former Torino star.
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“He is terrific; in any one-v-one situation he backs himself and he gets forward as well with some useful crosses,” he told MUTV when asked about the 25-year-old Italian.
Smalling has played every minute for United so far this season, keeping back-to-back Premier League clean sheets against Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa.
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He'll be hoping to continue that domestic run when Newcastle United make the trip to Old Trafford at the weekend, and the 25-year-old admits the benchmark has now been set for what's expected this season.
“We must continue our good start. It is another home game and we have to assert ourselves early on," he added.
“It is good that we again get to be in the first game that plays and, hopefully, set the benchmark for the weekend.”
With compatriot Phil Jones out through injury, Smalling has formed an effective partnership alongside Dutch international Daley Blind so far this season, with the pair playing every minute together thus far.
With Luke Shaw and Darmian doing the same on the flanks, there is a consistency that was missing last season at the back for United, and that appears to be having a positive impact in all aspects - including helping new goalkeeper Sergio Romero settle between the sticks in place of David de Gea.
“Last season, there were that many changes, it was hard to get a good run – even though I still don’t think we conceded that many goals in the second half of the season," he concluded.
“But that togetherness and that work ethic is showing on the pitch now because we are not letting that many chances in.”
After this weekend's clash with the Magpies, it's the small matter of the second leg in United's Champions League qualifier against Club Brugge. The 20-time English champions will start as favourites when they arrive in Belgium, although the early away goal could be crucial as the tie progresses.
United fans, how happy are you with Van Gaal's summer business to date? Let us know in the comments box below.
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