Smalling defends himself after England omission
BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Manchester United defender Chris Smalling says he has nothing to prove to England manager Gareth Southgate after being dropped by the national team and having his ability publicly questioned.
Smalling was overlooked for England’s recent friendly games against Germany and Brazil, with Southgate picking younger players and saying he wanted his team to move toward a style of “using the ball from the back and building up in a certain way.”
“Was I surprised? Yes, I was,” Smalling said on Tuesday of his omission, speaking at United’s news conference ahead of its Champions League game against Basel.
“But you don’t play for one of the biggest clubs in the world for as long as I have and probably won the most trophies bar the Champions League without being able to do everything a top defender needs to do, be it playing or defending.”
Smalling, who has played 31 games for England, started the season behind Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, and has played more in the Premier League only in recent weeks because of injuries.
“This year, as a team, we’ve got one of the best defensive records,” Smalling said, “and we have done for the last few years and I’m very proud to be part of that.
“While I’m playing under Jose (Mourinho) and he’s happy and I’m playing regularly, then I’m happy with that.”
Smalling is confident of forcing his way into Southgate’s plans for the World Cup in Russia.
“While I’m playing regularly here and part of a very successful team I think that should show come the summer,” Smalling said. “I don’t really feel like I need to prove anything to Gareth.
“Like I said, I play for one of the most successful managers in Jose and he’s only going to pick the best players. While I’m playing regularly and he’s happy I think, if my season carries on like this and we have a successful season and our team continues to concede very few goals, then I think it gives him maybe no choice in the summer but to pick me.”