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Smalling up for fresh challenge
Published : 20 Aug 2011 15:08:00
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has already learned that last season's record-breaking title triumph now counts for nothing. Such is the rate of success at United, and the level of expectation, Smalling has been made aware he cannot dwell on past glory. For the 21-year-old, who joined United from Fulham in a £10million deal 13 months ago, last season proved to be a revelation. Smalling went on to make 33 appearances, including 23 starts, with the crowning glory the capture of United's 19th league title. In winning his first medal, it was naturally one to savour, however that has now gone and it is only this season that counts. "It's literally a fresh start," said Smalling. "The manager and the older players who have won countless medals - God knows how many they've got at home - they see this season as a new challenge. "It's down to us to not get too carried away that we won the title last year because for some of us young ones it was our first medal, which was really exciting. "Now it's about turning over a new page, onto the next game and you forget about the last one. "When you arrive here you learn about the winning mentality and the expectations straight away, even from training. "Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David de Gea (the new signings) have not won anything with us yet, but they've a good gauge as to what this club is about. "We go out onto the training field and we're training like we're playing. "Even the older players are out there performing every day which is really good to see, and us young players really learn from that." Smalling has taken his chance to such an extent he is now virtually one of the first names down on Ferguson's teamsheet. For Monday's visit of Spurs, Smalling will operate at right-back, with £16.5million capture in 19-year-old Jones and 23-year-old Jonny Evans serving as centre-backs. Backed by 20-year-old goalkeeper De Gea, it is a youthful United back-line, due to injuries to Rio Ferdinand and captain Nemanja Vidic. "Losing Vida is disappointing. He's been such an influence over the years, and especially last season," said Smalling on Vidic, who is out for up to five weeks with a calf injury. "A lot of our stability was down to him, so it's important other players now step up to the mark, but he's going to be a big loss for whatever period he will be out. "However, with the amount of games we have there are going to be people who pick up injuries, or people who lose form, so there are going to be a lot of opportunities. "It's down to you to step in and make the manager decide not to take you out of the team." Although Ferguson has stated he is far from concerned at fielding what is likely to be his youngest side for many years, the club's proud records would appear to be under threat. United have not lost to Spurs at Old Trafford in all competitions since 1989, a run of 26 matches, whilst last season they dropped just two points at home all season in the league. With Spurs heading to Manchester in rampant mood after a 5-0 Europa League play-off thumping of Hearts on Thursday, Smalling is aware of the task ahead. "Spurs are a great side with so many good players," added Smalling. "They're an attacking team. Harry Redknapp gives them that freedom to go and play, as we saw the other night when they scored five. "They'll come here, which was a fortress for us last season, but I'm sure it will be without fear, and it's usually a close game when we play Tottenham."