Not so long ago Chris Smalling was preparing to study a business and economics course at university. Fast forward just over two years and the England U21 international is enjoying an education of a different kind at the biggest club in the world. And, after fearing a football career might remain a distant dream, he's determined to make the most of the opportunity…
Firstly, how much are you enjoying life at Old Trafford and are you happy with how the first few months have gone?
It’s been great so far. I’ve been made to feel very welcome by everybody which has really helped. Going on tour in the summer was key in terms of the settling in process as I got to know a lot of the lads well. It’s a real family club with a great atmosphere.
What’s impressed you most about the club?
I think the will to win. Even the senior players who have been here for years and won countless trophies always want to win, even if it’s just a training game. They never lower their standards and they’re a great example for us young lads the way they are so driven. Striving for success is what this club is all about.
Just over two years ago you were playing non-league football - can you believe how far you’ve come in that time?
Well, I always hoped I’d get a chance to prove myself at the top level because I believed I could do it, but making your way up the football ladder is tough and not everyone can make it. When I went for my trial at Fulham I’d already applied to Loughborough University to study business management with economics. I’d have been happy to go to Uni, but obviously it was my dream to play football. Joining United was a real shock but a great surprise.
How did it feel to play at Old Trafford for the first time against
It was quite surreal. The game was won when I came on which it made it a bit easier and the fans gave me a great reception. Starting against Rangers was a great feeling. I’d been used to watching Champions League football on TV and I almost had to pinch myself when I was lined up with the famous anthem echoing round the ground.
How has playing and training alongside Ferdinand and Vidic helped you progress so far?
It’s just good to watch how they deal with different situations and I want to bring the composure they show on the ball into my game. They’ve already given me a lot of advice and confidence and it’s been good to play