Fergie’s fire lifts Smalling already

Smalling picked up his first winners’ medal at Wembley as United
overcame Chelsea 3-1 to clinch the Community Shield on Sunday. For
the former Fulham man it was a special moment as it confirmed his
status as a member of the Red Devils squad. But the 21-year-old
realises for others it was a more familiar occasion. Ferguson, for
example, was collecting the trophy for a record ninth time. Yet
Smalling was struck by just how much the occasion meant to the
veteran Scot. “The manager is a real inspiration,” said Smalling.
“It is credit to how much he wants to win things. “He stressed to
us all before the game that he still has the joy each day to come
in for training. Now he is looking to us to give something back to
him in terms of winning trophies.” Ferguson’s place near the top of
English football history has long since been assured. Smalling’s
battle is only just beginning. It is only two years since he was
turning out for Maidstone is almost total obscurity. Roy Hodgson
plucked him away from the Kent outfit and dropped him into Fulham’s
squad but the Greenwich-born player only made 19 appearances for
the Cottagers before Ferguson stepped in to complete a rise of
meteoric proportions. Smalling is quickly getting used to his new
surroundings, a process aided, he believes, by the absences of Rio
Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic from United’s pre-season tour of North
America. It provided Smalling with the opportunity to feature in
the five tour games more often than he might have expected. And
while he accepts life at first will consist of back-up appearances
to United’s first-choice centre-half and automatic deputy Jonny
Evans, who slotted into Ferdinand’s position at Wembley as the
England skipper remained sidelined by a knee injury, he is setting
his standards high. “You have to show the manager what you are
capable of in training and in the games you do get,” he said. “It
is going to be hard and I have noticed a step up in standard. “In
terms of the general tempo and training it has been a real
improvement but it has been a real joy so far.”