Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Chris Smalling relishing centre-back pairing with new Manchester United defender Phil Jones

Chris Smalling Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling is relishing the prospect of forming a centre-back pairing with Phil Jones for both Manchester United and England for years to come.

And Smalling would love nothing more than to make it a trophy-winning partnership straight away at the European Under-21 Championship in Denmark.

Jones today all but completed his protracted move to Old Trafford from Blackburn, which had reportedly been held up by a wrangle over the transfer fee.

United look set to pay between £16.5million and £20million for the 19-year-old, who further enhanced his reputation in the Young Lions' 1-1 draw against Spain last night.

Smalling also shone in an otherwise disappointing England performance in their Group B opener and could not wait for Jones to become his clubmate.

"It's brilliant," said Smalling, who himself only joined United from Fulham last summer.

"I've really enjoyed playing with him and it's hard to think he's only 19 as well, so hopefully we can play together for a few years and see this
championship out as well first and go further than a couple of years ago."

Jones could be forgiven for being distracted by his transfer saga but Smalling said: "You wouldn't think it.

"We've just trained together these last couple of weeks and nothing's changed and that togetherness showed."

The duo appear to complement each other well, much like Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at United or Ferdinand and John Terry for England.

But Smalling claimed the pair could each do the silky and the tough stuff, saying: "I'd like to think we've both got a bit of both.

"The manager wants us both to attack and also not to give the striker an inch."

Jones might not have even started this month's tournament had Micah Richards not pulled out through injury, but his talismanic influence was in evidence again last night as he extended his unbeaten record to five wins and two draws from his seven caps.

Smalling said: "Phil and I have been pretty together for many of the games.

"It's been disappointing Micah's not been able to come but Jonah's come in, done really well and we've been able to set our stall out.

"A couple of clean sheets in these next qualifying games and that'll hopefully see us through to the knockout stages."

Smalling accepts concentration will need to improve at set pieces in Wednesday's game against Ukraine after Spain opened the scoring too easily from a corner last night, albeit with the use of a hand.

"We were a bit sloppy to concede from a set piece but we'll look at that," Smalling said.

"We don't see ourselves conceding from those situations but our self belief came through and we never gave up."

He added: "This was always going to be one of the hardest games in the group but we've still got to play a team who came through qualifying undefeated.

"So, if we can get one more win, we'll really be kicking on towards the semi-finals."

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