United defender Chris Smalling talks about his return to fitness and the squad’s objectives under a new manager…
How good is it to have joined up with the squad in Japan?
There are only a handful of people back at the training ground and it's been a bit of a long road back for me. I missed the last six weeks of last season so it's good to be back with the lads and straight into playing games.
You obviously played your part last campaign but was it frustrating to miss the business end of the season?
Yeah, it was. I missed the start and the end of the season so it will be nice to hopefully get an injury-free season under my belt. I can't wait to get back onto the pitch and enjoy my football again because it's been a little while.
How are you feeling now, then? Fit and ready to tackle pre-season?
Yeah, I've done some good training back in Manchester, alongside Warren Joyce, the Reserves and a few other first-team guys. Now I've joined the rest of the squad in Japan and I'm ready for the games.
There's a new manager and new coaching staff at United. But do the objectives remain the same for you guys?
Absolutely. Nothing changes on that front. We have a new manager and a few new coaches and it will take time for everybody to get to know each other but it's the same core of players and we still have the same desire to win every competition we take part in. We want to carry last season's success into this season.
We're well and truly in Shinji Kagawa territory here in Japan. What sort of reception have you seen him get already?
Shinji's a massive icon in Japan. Me and Ashley Young picked him up on the way over to an event on Monday morning and as soon as we got out of the car with him we were mobbed. It was pandemonium! They love him here. It's nice for us to come to Japan and have him show us around a little bit.
That said, there were people at the airport who had shirts with 'Büttner 28' and 'Januzaj 44' on them. There's definitely an appreciation of Manchester United and not just Shinji Kagawa...
Definitely. You don't realise that until you arrive here. You think everybody's just Shinji crazy, but they definitely have a keen eye for the game of football and they're big fans of the club as a whole.