Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is relishing the chance to captain the Red Devils in the absence of Wayne Rooney. The 26-year-old skippered United against Liverpool at Anfield on Monday night (17 October), with Rooney starting the game on the bench, and Smalling has revealed he was honoured to be given the extra responsibility.
Despite his relative inexperience, Smalling has been handed the armband over other viable alternatives, such as Daley Blind and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, both of whom have performed the role elsewhere. But Smalling has insisted the captaincy job does not change how he approaches playing.
"It is nice that the manager has given me the responsibility of being captain," he said, according to the Manchester Evening News. "It doesn't change my game on the pitch but it is nice in crucial moments in the game the team will look to you and you have to make sure you are up to it.
"You have to make sure you are up to it because you don't want to be a captain who is putting in an under par performance. I like to think I thrive on it. I like it. I was ready for that responsibility.
"In our defence I am one who has played the most games these days. We are not an old defence and it was time for someone to step in there and become a leader and hopefully I am doing that."
Smalling picked up an injury during United's pre-season preparations, which led to him missing the first few games of the season. He has, however, started United's last seven matches and is relieved to have worked his way back into the team.
"I missed all the pre-season games so it has been nice to get a run of games and I am feeling fitter and fresher every game," the United defender explained. "There is no God-given right that you come straight back into the side but I had faith that I could get back in when I was fit. I had the belief I would."