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.”