Thursday, January 18, 2018

Defiant Smalling responds to ´surprise´ England omission

SoccerNews in World Cup 21 Nov 2017

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Chris Smalling was surprised to be left out of Gareth Southgate’s last England squad, but believes his Manchester United form “under one of the most successful managers” in Jose Mourinho can lead to a recall.

The centre-back was an unexpected absentee for the recent home friendlies against Germany and Brazil, with Southgate stating a desire to “play in a certain way” as he switched to a three-man defensive line.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Basel, Smalling responded to the England coach’s explanation by pointing to his list of achievements at United, having won all three major domestic trophies and also the Europa League during his time at Old Trafford.

The 27-year-old is playing regularly under Jose Mourinho this season too, often in a four-man backline but, on occasion, also in the 3-5-2 system Southgate appears to favour ahead of next year’s World Cup.

“Was I surprised? Yes, I was,” Smalling said at a pre-match press conference.

“But you don’t play for one of the biggest clubs in the world for as long as I have and probably won the most trophies, bar the Champions League, without being able to do everything a top defender needs to do, be it playing or defending.

“I’m getting a good run of games, feeling good, and that’s what I want – to be a part of a successful team.

“This year, as a team, we’ve got the best defensive record, we have done for the last few years and I’m very proud to be part of that.

“While I’m playing under Jose Mourinho and he’s happy and I’m playing regularly, then I’m happy with that.

“I play for one of the biggest clubs and under one of the most successful managers and as long as that’s the case, I think, ultimately, it’s your club form that decides whether you play at a World Cup.”

Mourinho confirmed Smalling will start in the Group A fixture with Basel, as fellow defenders Eric Bailly and Phil Jones again find themselves on the sidelines.

But, while they are short at the back, United were boosted at the weekend by the return of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, adding further firepower to their attack.

“I think it would strike fear into myself if I was playing against them, and it strikes fear into most teams,” Smalling said of United’s forward options.

“Obviously we’ve got Paul back too, who’s a very attacking midfielder, and along with Ibra – and all those other names – it just gives us so many options.”

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