Louis van Gaal insists Chris Smalling’s development this season is down to the player himself ahead of Manchester United’s Premier League clash with Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday.
The England international marshalled a back-three alongside youngsters Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett to a 2-1 victory in the corresponding fixture last year and was a turning-point in the defender’s United career.
Smalling has started all of United’s games this season having finally grown into the player Sir Alex Ferguson envisaged when he signed in 2010, but Van Gaal has played down his own influence on the defender’s development.
“I think the player, when he does things, he does it all by himself,” said the United manager.
“I help him with advice and also with demands, also with training sessions, also with showing images to improve him, but he has to be open and he has to perform on the pitch.
“He does everything for himself. The greatest compliment you have to make is to Chris and not to me.”
Smalling could be partnered in central defence with Phil Jones on Sunday and Daley Blind pushed to left-back.
Michael Carrick is available for Van Gaal after missing United’s 2-1 win over Wolfsburg in midweek with a minor injury.
Petr Cech is expected to return to the Arsenal side but the Gunners have been dealt an injury below with Laurent Koscielny missing out.
Arsene Wenger’s side suffered a 3-2 defeat in midweek to Olympiacos but Van Gaal is wary of the threat the Gunners pose.
“I think Arsenal can come back from a defeat.
“Arsenal are technically and tactically the best team in the league. Nevertheless, they haven’t won so much, so you have to look for that improvement with that team.”
A win for the Red Devils on Sunday would ensure they stay top of the league heading into the international break.
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