12. CHRIS SMALLING
|Birthdate:||22 Nov 1989|
|Joined United:||07 Jul 2010|
|United Debut:||08 Aug 2010 v Chelsea (N)|
Little more than 18 months after arriving at Fulham from non-league Maidstone, defender Chris Smalling agreed to terms that would make him a Manchester United player from 1 July 2010.
A quick, clever central defender, Smalling played cameo roles for Roy Hodgson’s Fulham in both domestic and European competitions during 2009/10. Those fleeting performances were enough to earn him call-ups at England Under-21 level, and catch the eye of United scouts, who identified him as a talent too good to miss out on. The Reds agreed terms with Fulham for Smalling’s signature in January 2010, although the Greenwich-born defender remained at Craven Cottage for the remainder of the season. Smalling’s first campaign at Old Trafford went better than anyone could have expected. Given several chances to impress early in the season, mainly in the Champions League and League Cup, he looked completely at home in the centre of defence. And his confidence and composure only grew as the season wore on, when he earned an extended run in the side because of an injury to Rio Ferdinand. By the end of the campaign he’d made enough appearances to pick up a league winners’ medal. Throw in a first senior goal against Scunthorpe and it was a maiden season to remember for the talented youngster. Smalling’s impressive exploits were rewarded with the offer of a new five-year deal with the club which he signed in July 2011. Smalling continued to underline his value to the squad at the start of the following season – albeit at right-back rather than centre-half for the majority of the opening half of the campaign – and even got himself on the score-sheet during United’s dramatic Community Shield win over Manchester City and the Reds’ league victory over Chelsea in September. He had a woeful run of luck with injuries thereafter with a groin strain, cracked bone in his foot, a bout of tonsillitis and a nasty head wound (picked up on duty with England). He ended the campaign in the treatment room as well thanks to another groin strain, which ruled him out of Euro 2012, while metatarsal surgery in July 2012 meant another 10 weeks on the sidelines. Chris will certainly be hoping for a change in fortunes sooner rather than later.