Smalling: I thrive on being United captain

Smalling: I thrive on being United captain

A mixture of suspension and injury meant Chris Smalling began this season on the bench, yet the Manchester United defender has since become a regular starter under Jose Mourinho and he is now relishing the responsibility of captaining the team in Wayne Rooney’s absence. Smalling produced a disciplined performance as the Reds kept a clean sheet against high-scoring Liverpool at Anfield on Monday night. Speaking to and reporters after the final whistle, the England international explained why he feels the captaincy has a positive impact on his form.“I am really enjoying it and I think it is nice that the manager puts that on me,” Smalling explains. “It doesn’t really change my game going on the pitch but it is a nice touch that, in crucial moments in the game, the team will look to me. You need to make sure that, if anything, it makes your own performances rise because I don’t want to be the captain putting in an under-par performance.“It gives me more responsibility and I like to think that I thrive on that. When given the opportunity, I like it. Even without it, in terms of the defence, I am one who has played more games and we aren’t an old defence so it was time for someone to step in there and be that leader. I am enjoying it.”Having watched from the bench as Daley Blind and Eric Bailly impressed at centre-back early in the campaign, Smalling has now started in seven straight matches and he’s feeling stronger each time.“From a personal point of view I missed all of the pre-season games and it is nice to now get a fine run,” says Chris. “I am feeling fitter and fresher every game. I think you can tell the defence is a lot more compact. There is no God-given right that you are going to come back into the team but I had faith that when I was fit then I would get back in. I had that belief that I…

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