Belfast Telegraph

Smalling hopes for festive cheer

Chris Smalling is determined Manchester United should make the most of the packed Christmas programme.

United head to Fulham tonight looking to maintain the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City. After overhauling their neighbours for four hours on Sunday, the Red Devils could seize the advantage on New Year's Eve should they continue winning ways as Roberto Mancini's men are not in action until the first day of 2012.

"The players always look forward to this time of year because there are plenty of games," said Smalling.

"We are used to the demands of so many games, so it is a big opportunity to pick up a lot of points - and we are aiming for the maximum.

"Christmas can be a hindrance on some and even make or break you in terms of kicking on. But this is a period where we really need to show everybody we mean business."

Smalling spent two years at Fulham after then manager Roy Hodgson plucked him from the obscurity of non-league at Maidstone.

Within two seasons, the 21-year-old had secured a £10million move to United, since when he has won a Premier League title and broken into Fabio Capello's England squad, featuring in the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales in September.

But Smalling has not forgotten how it became possible and while Hodgson is no longer around, he will greet some familiar faces on Wednesday evening.

"Without Roy Hodgson giving me my chance there I wouldn't be here," he said.

"I had a big two years there and it is a time I look back upon fondly. My first year was about finding my feet, the second was about showcasing what I can do. It'll be nice to go back and see a few of the players and play back at the Cottage."

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