Chris Smalling has paid tribute to former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal for helping to turn him into one of England’s starting defenders.
Smalling was entrusted with a greater role under Van Gaal – who was sacked last month as United opted for Jose Mourinho as the man to take the club forward – and the England international said the Dutchman played a crucial role in his development.
While Van Gaal’s United were not the most thrilling iteration of the side, Smalling said his tactical nous made them hard to break down as they conceded just 35 goals this season – the equal best record in the Premier League.
“Louis is very tactically aware,” Smalling said.
“Despite the ups and downs of the season, I think on the whole we as a team were very solid. We didn’t concede too many goals. That’s something he implemented.
“He really drilled us from the front to the back in terms of how we move, how we shift, and that’s helped me because that’s a large part of my game.”
The United defender is a lock for a starting berth in England’s defence for Euro 2016, with Hodgson taking just three central defenders in the squad to France.
Gary Cahill and John Stones will fight for the other spot alongside Smalling, who will hope to help England out of Group B, starting with their opening game against Russia on June 11.