EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

"Everyone is very focused but there's still that enjoyment factor."
- Chris Smalling

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04/05/2011 18:03
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Smalling up for the challenge

It's some turnaround from playing in the non-league ranks to contesting a Premier League title with Manchester United. Chris Smalling has made that massive leap in the last two years or so, and his performances this season have vindicated the club's judgement in picking him up from Fulham.

The non-league rough-cut diamond has quickly acquired Premier League polish. So what does he make of finding himself in the midst of a title run-in?

Have the other lads given you any advice about handling the pressure at this stage of the season?
They've just said to stay focused. A lot of them have been through this so many times before and, although there have been some ups and downs, a lot of the time they've ended up on the winning side come the end of the season. Being able to train with them every day and see how they deal with certain situations in games really helps all the younger players.

You challenged for silverware with Fulham last season during that great Europa League run, but how do the pressures compare at United? The expectation level here is totally different, isn't it?
Absolutely - United are favourites for pretty much every game, no matter what competition. Sometimes it can be hard, the way teams set up against us and try to restrict us, but it's our job to find a solution, no matter what the game or occasion. There is that added pressure to go out and perform, but the players here thrive on it, that's why so many have become world-class stars. The younger lads are learning that you have to step up. It's a challenge everyone relishes.

And that challenge is presumably there week in, week out...
Yes it is. At Fulham last season, we had a couple of wins against Liverpool and United, funnily enough (smiles), and you enjoy the celebrations for a couple of days or so. At United, you might have one massive win against one of your big rivals, but you'll come to training the next day and you wouldn't really even notice because there's another big game coming up. It's not just about getting one or two big results, it's about getting them across the whole season.

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