Chris Smalling
Smalling has made his mark on both United and England. REUTERS

Garth Crooks has praised Manchester United youngster Chris Smalling following the defender's assured display at the Emirates on Sunday.

Manchester United have endured an unusual amount of injuries this season that has threatened to curtail their Premier League title defence.

Nemanja Vidic is out for the remainder of the season and on Friday Rio Ferdinand suffered a reoccurrence of the niggling back injury that has hampered him for the last few seasons, therefore Manchester United have had to contend with their two senior centre-halves for large periods of the season and most pertinently against Arsenal on Sunday.

Smalling deputised for the injured Ferdinand and although Manchester United's injury problems were exasperated by Phil Jones' untimely substitution during the first half, the former Fulham starlet was majestic alongside the equally impressive Jonny Evans during their 2-1 victory at the Emirates.

Crooks suggest Smalling's importance to Sir Alex Ferguson is becoming even more evident as Manchester United look to negotiate a spate of injuries during the crucial period of the season.

"Apart from one slip in the second half, Smalling had a superb game at the back for (Manchester) United." Crooks told The BBC.

"He won every header that needed to be won inside and outside his own box and produced a match-winning clearance in the dying seconds of the match.

"With injuries to Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and the subsequent injury to Phil Jones, Smalling looked as solid as a rock against the Gunners."

Crooks' comments are more than endorsed by the stats regarding Smalling. Since making his Premier League debut for the Red Devils in August 2010, Manchester United have won 77% of their league games when the 22-year-old has started, compared to just 58% without him.

Smalling's brilliant form for Manchester United, where he has regularly featured at right-back as well as centre-half, was recognised by Fabio Capello at the end of last year, when he made his England debut against Bulgaria on 2 September.