Former Manchester United man Danny Higginbotham believes Chris Smalling has developed into one of England’s best central defenders over the last year.
Smalling has become a key player for United and has been named in the starting line-up for all nine of their Premier League matches so far in 2015-16.
Higginbotham has been impressed with his development and feels the progress displayed since manager Louis van Gaal took charge in 2014 has put him in the top bracket of Premier League stoppers.
“Smalling has been outstanding,” the ex-Gibraltar international told Omnisport.
“It was towards the end of last season where he really started to get better.
“One thing I have said before is that the sign of a good defender is when they come off the pitch and you don’t know how quick they are.
“That is the difference now – his positioning is so much better and you rarely see him having to go at full pelt trying to recover a situation. That stands out for me.
“It is down to experience and maturing. Definitely, he will have learned from the likes of [Nemanja] Vidic and [Rio] Ferdinand – you cannot fail to learn from those players.
“But I think Van Gaal coming in and probably taking more time on the positional side of things and being a more defensive-minded coach will always benefit the defenders.
“All those things put together is making Chris Smalling turn out to be one of the best centre-backs in England.”