Smalling feels youth will be given a chance
Chris Smalling is excited to see which of Manchester United’s young players will make the travelling squad for the summer tour.
The experienced centre-back believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have a close look at the options available to him within the ranks as he plots a 2019/20 campaign that includes the Europa League.
Tahith Chong, James Garner and Mason Greenwood all made their senior debuts under the manager and, although there is no World Cup or European Championship to affect availability, they will be among those hoping to impress the Norwegian once pre-season training starts in earnest on 1 July.
Smalling is supportive of the younger players, but does appreciate the timing must be absolutely right to blood them.
"It’s a big part of the job," he replied, when we asked whether his senior role included helping Academy products make the step up to the senior squad. "It makes you remember when you were the young one coming up and feeling a bit daunted because of the star names.
"It's very much an exciting time for them and you want to see them flourish and help them. I’m sure a good number will come on tour and it’s really a time for them to bond with us, and show the manager what they are all about. Ole will definitely give some of them a chance as they’ve been training with us for a long time.
"It is all well and good coming over training with us most of the week, though, but it’s a massive experience getting to know each other off the pitch and building relationships. That’s often the next stage that cements them and makes them feel more confident when they’re on the pitch. Once you know someone, you speak a lot more and demand more. Until you really know someone, it’s hard to demand something from them."
"It’s not easy as the media always loves to build someone up," he said. "But, ultimately, it’s about making sure you can keep to those standards. Everyone can have a breakthrough season but it’s about consistency, when you’re tested to see whether you’re the best of the best.
"Ultimately, kids are learning at a young age and need to be mentally strong. It’s all good to have the talent but the mental side is massive as some kids are exposed to that pressure at a very early age now. When I started at Fulham, social media was not as huge as it is now but they started to implement a few little things there. These days, United are very much on it in terms of making sure any kids coming through are not exposed to it too much. We drip feed the interviews they need to do and the manager is very clever as well.
"They can be involved in the squad but then go back to the Reserves and it’s about that evolution. Having a manager like Ole, who is experienced within the club, means United hit the nail on the head with that. Quite often, there can be a clamour from us as fans as well as players, to say 'this kid is great, let’s just throw him in' and everyone is clamouring to do that. But the manager knows the right time to bring them in and take them out.
"Ultimately, they have got long careers ahead of them and you don’t want them to burn out too early or be exposed too soon. The beauty here is we’ve got the best coaches to manage it properly as this club has done year after year."
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