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Man Utd linked to Smalling transfer

last updated Tuesday 26th January 2010, 9:41 AM
Fulham defender Chris Smalling
Fulham defender
Chris Smalling
Chris Smalling
Manchester United have expressed an interest in the Fulham defender Chris Smalling, whose remarkable rise from non-League football now looks likely to continue with a battle for his signature between two of the biggest clubs in English football.

It has been widely anticipated that Arsenal would make the first move for the £7m-rated defender, who was playing for Maidstone United when he was signed by Roy Hodgson in March 2008. However, Manchester United have let it be known that they are interested in the 20-year-old who, in a short space of time, has broken into the Fulham side and the England Under-21s.

Among the scouting circles of the Premier League's biggest clubs, United's interest in Smalling is widely known and is likely to push up the price for a player who is difficult to value because of the unorthodox way in which he came into the professional game.

Smalling is highly regarded for his pace and strength and his ability to play on the left side of the central defensive pairing. Given the cautious financial climate around even the top clubs, both United and Arsenal would prefer the deal to be loaded with payments that relate to the achievements of Smalling on the pitch.

Hodgson said last week that Arsenal are yet to make any official contact over Smalling. It is understood that United's interest is the stronger, especially with uncertainty over the long-term fitness of Rio Ferdinand and doubts over whether Nemanja Vidic is committed to the club.

Both clubs have looked at Smalling as a potential summer signing, although one or other may yet move for him this week if they feel that they are in danger of losing the player. Smalling only made his first Premier League start for Fulham against Chelsea on 28 December but has done enough to demonstrate that he has the raw potential to play at the top level.

Chris who? Smalling's career so far

*Born in Greenwich in November 1989, Smalling began his career at Maidstone, making his debut at 17.

*His elegant style earned him a call-up to the England schools team and attracted the interest of Middlesbrough and Fulham.

*Opting to join Roy Hodgson's side, the centre-back made his debut against Everton in May, and soon played for England Under-21s.

*Handed his full debut at CSKA Sofia - Hodgson praising the "maturity I'm not entitled to expect from a player so young" - before making a first league start at Chelsea last month, where he impressed despite an own goal.

Source Sam Wallace at The Independent
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