Smalling confidence soaring
With Ferdinand rested at home, Smalling seized another opportunity to impress in Turkey last night as United registered a 3-0 win over Bursaspor that takes them to within a single point of a place in the Champions League knockout stages. It was the Red Devils' fifth clean sheet in eight games, a dramatic improvement on their early season problems. Smalling can take his share of the accolades. But he wants to ensure Ferdinand and central defensive partner Nemanja Vidic get the praise they deserve too. "The likes of Rio and Vida have been brilliant," said Smalling. "They help guide you through games and I am learning from them all the time. "They deserve credit too. They have really helped me to settle in and my confidence is sky high at the moment." Little wonder Smalling is feeling so good about life. Having accepted the most testing of challenges when he quit Fulham for Old Trafford despite having barely a dozen senior games under his belt, Smalling could not have wished for a better start. He seems already to have leapfrogged ahead of Jonny Evans and Wes Brown in the United defensive pecking order, earning lavish praise from Sir Alex Ferguson along the way. "It has been great to hear those words from the manager," he said. "For him to be saying things like that feels brilliant. Hopefully I can repay the faith. "I just want to get more games under my belt and kick on from here." Vidic has no doubts that he will. As a master of the central defensive art, the Serbian knows a touch of quality when he sees it. And in Smalling, he is adamant United have the real deal. "Chris did very well but you are not just talking about one night, he has done well over the last few games," said the United skipper. "He has proved the boss was right to give him his chance. "Rio has obviously had trouble with injuries over the last year. "Given it was such a long trip and we have important games to come, it was a good chance for Chris. "He has good players around him to learn from and has the ability, intelligence and physique to do well."