Smalling: Jones and I have already filled Ferdinand and Vidic void

The England international acknowledges that he and his fellow Red Devil had to step up after Louis van Gaal’s arrival at Manchester United but feels they have earned his trust

Chris Smalling feels that he and Phil Jones have proved themselves as Manchester United’s first-choice defenders after a “make-or-break” season.

The centre-back had previously struggled to hold down a regular spot in the United team, partly due to the presence of long-time pairing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

After the experienced duo left to join QPR and Inter respectively, an opportunity arose for Smalling and fellow England international Jones to stake a claim under Louis van Gaal.

Although Smalling did miss a portion of the season due to injury, he subsequently returned and produced a string of promising performances, with a new four-year deal in April evidence of the 25-year-old successfully navigating what he believed to be a crucial season for him at Old Trafford.

Asked by reporters if he and Jones could fill the void left by Ferdinand and Vidic, Smalling replied: “I think we have. It’s one where it just builds over time and we’ve had our chance this season and now it is all about building on that next season.

“I think it was make or break, considering the outgoings at centre-back last summer.

“It was a chance where players had to step in and luckily I’ve been one of those who has had a good run, especially in the second half of the season.

“Apart from the start of the season, when I had a few injuries, I’ve been able to have a good run and the manager has shown faith in me at United.

“We take more risks at United than the majority of teams but the manager wants us to play. That is something we have fully taken on board because that is his style, and I think that has helped me when playing in the games.

“On the back of that it was nice to get another England game [against the Republic of Ireland] to carry on the season. Now it is all about building on that next season.”

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