Chris Smalling: We Could Go From Strength To Strength

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling expects manager Sir Alex Ferguson to keep faith with his youngsters this season.Chris Smalling

A youthful-looking United gave an early indication of their potential with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.

Defender Smalling, 21, new goalkeeper David de Gea, 20, and 20-year-old striker Danny Welbeck, who is back from a loan spell at Sunderland, all started.

New signing Phil Jones, 19, and 21-year-old Tom Cleverley, who spent last season with Wigan, also featured in the second half.

Ferguson is renowned for his ability to continually renew his side and he now looks to be bringing in a new generation following the recent retirements of Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar.

Smalling, who scored the goal which sparked United’s winning comeback from 2-0 down, said: “The manager said the young players will get a chance this season.

“At half-time in a big game like this you could see the young players step up. Hopefully that can carry on all season.

“I think we could go from strength to strength.

“Quite a few people feel like they have got a fresh start. They have been out on loan and are making a big step.

“The manager has given them a chance in pre-season. You can see these players are good enough and hopefully they will get more chances.”

Smalling is now in his second season at Old Trafford following his move from Fulham.

He remains behind Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in the pecking order for centre-half berths but his performance at right-back against City underlined his versatility and value.

He said: “This year the aim is to really kick on and play more.

“Hopefully I can start to get some more games at centre-back. But if the manager feels that I can play the odd game at right-back then I’ll help if I can contribute.”

City trailed at the break after Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko struck in a torrid six-minute spell for De Gea.

United upped the tempo after the restart and Smalling diverted in an Ashley Young free-kick before they levelled with a sublime goal from Nani.

Portugal winger Nani claimed the winner in injury time after robbing Vincent Kompany near the halfway line.

Smalling added: “We weren’t too down at half-time. In the first half an hour we thought we played the better football but then City were a lot more clinical in taking their two goals.

“It was a bit of a sucker punch but we worked on moving the ball quick, getting on the turn and playing the forward ball.

“Luckily we took those chances when they came.

“It’s been a while since I scored and, obviously, that was at Scunthorpe so this is a completely different arena.

“Just in terms of gambling, the manager said they played the zonal (defence).

“Ash has been whipping in some great balls all pre-season so it’s down to us to get on the end of them.”

Smalling is also confident De Gea will bounce back from his difficult debut.

The Spaniard, signed from Atletico Madrid for £18million this summer, failed to come for the free-kick which Lescott glanced in and was then beaten from distance by a low Dzeko shot.

Smalling said: “He’ll learn from things like that and he made some good saves early in the second half.

“So it’s good to see that he’s not going to be down and out about it.

“He got up and made some really good saves.”

Jones, another of United’s recent arrivals after a £16million move from Blackburn, already feels at home with the champions and is looking forward to the start of the Barclays Premier League.

United begin their title defence with a trip to West Brom on Sunday.

Jones said: “I have settled in well, the lads have made me feel welcome and I am enjoying it.

“It was a good workout before the start of the season next week.

“Hopefully the lads will come back from international duty fresh and we can kick off the season in style.

“We are looking forward to it and hopefully we can get three points.”

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