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Smalling enjoying lead role at United

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is thriving on his lead role at Old Trafford this season as the England international continues to dominate opponents.

Smalling has grown into United's key defensive figure in 2015-16, helping Louis van Gaal's men to three consecutive Premier League clean sheets alongside makeshift centre-back partner Daley Blind and full-backs Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian.

Quality has never been an issue for Smalling, who has seen injuries prevent him from performing and playing on a consistent basis, but the 25-year-old is now fit and firing under Van Gaal's leadership after coming out on top against Aleksandar Mitrovic in a physical battle during last week's goalless draw with Newcastle United.

"I have always liked that competition with the striker and obviously Daley is not that sort of centre-back who is going to dominate, so it's a case of I take that mantle on and I am enjoying it," said Smalling.

"I wouldn't say I hadn't done it previously in games because I feel like I bullied quite a few players in matches.

"But it's a case of making sure there is that consistency and, hopefully, I can get that consistency where it can be on show every week.

"I feel like I am playing well and I am enjoying my football.

"It is good to keep playing each game and knowing that there are not too many changes at the moment because we are doing well, so I hope to keep that up.

"It's comfortable playing next to Daley. Sometimes if there is a big opponent we will swap around. But he can handle himself as well so I am enjoying playing alongside him."