A broken toe meant Chris Smalling missed the first two months of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign but, now that he is fully fit, the defender is making up for lost time and states the entire squad has been energised by the caretaker manager’s infectious positivity.
Smalling was unavailable for that game and watched the all-action affair on TV, which he admits was a frustrating experience – even though he was obviously happy for his team-mates. His eventual return to action, away at Fulham in February, signalled the end of his injury troubles and the 29-year-old has produced a series of commanding performances, most recently at PSG in midweek.
Speaking to us ahead of today’s 16:30 GMT kick-off, Chris revealed it was difficult for him to sit out Solskjaer’s exciting start as boss.
“It was very unfortunate,”
“Before Ole had come in I was used to playing every week and then I obviously had a broken toe, so I had to have a couple of months out, so I was chomping at the bit to get my boots back on and play under Ole.
“Luckily, that came as soon as I was fit against Fulham. I must say, it was nice to see the team doing well but I was just eager to get back in there and get involved. I was very fortunate that when I was back fit, Ole called upon me.”
“There is just a smile on everyone’s faces. I think you can see with Ole that he is always smiling – be it at the training ground, at games or in post-match interviews.
“You can see that joy and happiness that he has. We feed off that. There are players who are injured, others who have stepped up, and everyone has got that belief, whoever steps in, that we can keep that high level that we have managed under Ole.”
“Yeah, I think we are [confident],”
“We have got that belief. Especially in the last five or six weeks from the teams we have come up against, whether it is Chelsea, Tottenham or PSG, all sorts, we know that we can go to teams and we can hurt teams. That belief could not be any higher at the moment.”
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The squad has shown its remarkable strength in recent matches, when up to 10 first-team players have been unavailable through injury, but the ranks will hopefully be boosted against Arsenal with Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Anthony Martial tipped to return by Solskjaer.
“One hundred per cent it’s a boost because they have been really key players for us this season and especially under Ole, they have been terrific,” Smalling explained.
“To be able to have more players to call upon us just fantastic for us, going into such a big game.”