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Chris Smalling tracks Harry Kane in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final

Smalling pleased with form in key matches

Chris Smalling is giving England boss Gareth Southgate food for thought as the World Cup in Russia inches closer.

The Manchester United defender was omitted from Southgate’s pool of players for the March friendlies against Holland and Italy, but that has not shattered his Reds form. 

Smalling has been the cornerstone of manager Jose Mourinho’s defence in 2018, while goals against Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Bournemouth have added a new regular contribution to his armoury.

But at Wembley in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final, it was his defensive game that was the eye-catcher. He kept Tottenham Hotspur's danger man, 28-goal Harry Kane, quiet all evening.

With Spurs's major goal threat in Smalling's pocket, United were able to build on the stability and earn a place in the 19 May final against Chelsea. An 11th-hour international reprieve can now not be ruled out.

“I love my battles against ‘H’ (Kane). I don't think he's scored too many against me, so long may that continue!” said Chris after the game.

“It's nice testing yourself against the best because certainly this year he's been one of the best. That’s our job, to test ourselves against the best and it’s nice to shut him out. 

“All I can do is play the games and at the minute I'm playing every game and performing in big games, so I'll just keep doing my job.

“Of course you want to be playing in the summer (at the World Cup). All you can do is let your football do the talking. I think I've been a mainstay in the set-up (at United) for quite a while now and I just want to finish the season as strongly as I can and see what happens.”

Smalling: This has been our objectiveVideo

Since being left out of Southgate’s early spring squads, there hasn’t been any dialogue with the England boss, as Smalling completes his eighth season at Old Trafford to make him one of the longest servers behind Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia.

“At the minute there's no conversations and I'm going to keep playing my games,” he said.

“It takes big characters to last so long at United. They're always being linked to every player who has played the game but the manager has faith in you and all the managers have had faith in me.” 

View from the press box article reporter Josh Kerr describes the colourful scenes at Wembley as United reached the cup final.

The Wembley triumph in the semi-final has kept the Reds' season alive on the trophy front and securing second place in the Premier League is also close to completion.

“City won the league and we had to make sure to give ourselves the best possible chance of winning a trophy and we feel we have done that,” added Smalling.

“Considering how a few months ago it was looking like that was as much as we could have hoped for, at the moment we're achieving those. 

“It's just about consistency; I think we have shown more consistency this year. Obviously City have shown ultimate consistency but we're building, especially in the last few months of playing some very big games.

How we reached the FA Cup finalVideo

“We knew these months were big games for us and we have won near enough all the big ones, so I think we're going to build up a lot of confidence going into next year.

“For now, the FA Cup final gives us a carrot at the end of the season. Not only are we playing for second, but we’re playing for final places so we have a lot to drive us forward.”