Chris Smalling feels he has silenced some of his critics following a positive “make or break” season with Manchester United.
The centre-back had previously struggled to hold down a regular spot in the United team, partly due to the presence of long-time pairing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
After the experienced duo left to join Queens Park Rangers and Inter respectively, an opportunity arose for Smalling – and United’s other back-up defenders – to stake a claim under Louis van Gaal.
Although Smalling did miss a portion of the season due to injury, he subsequently returned and produced a string of promising performances, with a new four-year deal in April evidence of the 25-year-old successfully navigating what he believed to be a “make or break” season at Old Trafford.
“I think it was make or break, considering the outgoings at centre-back last summer,” he told a news conference ahead of England’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Slovenia on Sunday.
“It was a chance where players had to step in and luckily I’ve been one of those who has had a good run, especially in the second half of the season.
“Apart from the start of the season, when I had a few injuries, I’ve been able to have a good run and the manager has shown faith in me at United.
“We take more risks at United than the majority of teams but the manager wants us to play. That is something we have fully taken on board because that is his style, and I think that has helped me when playing in the games.
“On the back of that it was nice to get another England game [against the Republic of Ireland] to carry on the season. Now it is all about building on that next season.”