Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has revealed that defender Chris Smalling is in line to replace Wayne Rooney as the club's next captain.
As reported by the Mirror, the Dutch coach claims Smalling is easy to coach and has taken responsibility on the pitch.
Smalling, who endured a tricky opening couple of months under the Van Gaal regime last season, has been a model of consistency over the course of the last year or so.
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In fact, since his sending off at the Etihad during the Red Devils' 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in November of last year, the England international has been one of the club's standout performers.
And, ahead of this weekend's showdown with their noisy neighbours, Van Gaal has hailed the centre-back.
The United boss stated: “Wayne Rooney is the captain, so you don’t have worry, and then Michael Carrick.
“But when they are gone then, Chris Smalling can do that. So I push him in that situation.
“Every player makes the steps by himself. I put him in the situation, I help him in the situation and I advise, and the player can take it on board or not.
“It’s his responsibility. He’s done it by himself. There’s a lot of advice and it’s about how we defend as a team.
“He’s a part of that and I wanted him to speak. He also has the talent to speak. That makes him easy to coach.
“Because of that, I have made him a leader of the team. He’s made steps, and also in a tactical way.
“When you give instructions in terms of organisation, you need someone to understand that. He’s a structured person and he accepted it more quicker.
“David De Gea has the best view [of the game] and then the central defenders, so I demand of my defenders that they speak.
“They also need an overview. I put him [Smalling] in that situation and then he can develop or not. It’s his choice.”
Leader at the back
Smalling's rise to prominence in Manchester has been an extraordinary one. The once fragile, inconsistent defender is now a rock at the back, determined to stop those that attempt to pass him by.
The 25-year-old's progression under the Dutch regime really has been that good. Previously it would have been a ridiculous statement to suggest that the former Fulham defender could captain United. Now it appears to be more than viable.
There should be no underestimating the player's recent rise. He's now by a long way the Red Devils' first-choice centre-back, but there's no reason why he can't continue to improve over the coming years.
Manchester United fans: should Smalling replace Rooney as your club's next captain? Have your say below!