Manchester United defender Chris Smalling endured an indifferent start to life at Old Trafford when he arrived in 2010, but he has worked hard to put that behind him.
The England international produced another commanding performance in the 2-1 win over Watford on Saturday, and as seen above, Smalling has become an integral part of Louis van Gaal’s plans to keep things tight at the back.
In addition, the 26-year-old also played a crucial role in the build-up to the winning goal at Vicarage Road, as he made a big contribution in the closing stages to keep the pressure on the hosts before Bastian Schweinsteiger sent his effort towards goal only for Troy Deeney to net an own goal.
Nevertheless, it is Smalling’s defensive play that has been most impressive, as he continues to dominate in the air and has taken on a role as a leader in the backline.
While the likes of Daley Blind and Phil Jones have come in beside him, he has remained a fixture of the starting line up in recent times and it is no coincidence that his development has come at a time with United boasting an impressive defensive record.
The Red Devils have conceded just nine goals in 13 games so far this season, which is unsurprisingly the best record in the Premier League.
That has played an important part in why they are just a point adrift of current leaders Leicester City, and they will hope that they can maintain that level of focus throughout the campaign in order to compete for silverware.
Smalling has featured in all 13 of those outings, and although there is an argument to suggest that he could be more of an offensive threat on set pieces given his height and physicality, his primary job is to protect David de Gea and he is doing that impressively.
While he has yet to reach the peak years of his career, Smalling has shown a big improvement and will hope that he can help the club achieve their objectives.