Chris Smalling: England snub for World Cup motivates me at Manchester United
WATFORD, England -- Chris Smalling is hoping to turn his World Cup disappointment into a positive by re-establishing himself at Manchester United.
The defender, who has 31 caps, was axed from the England squad by manager Gareth Southgate in the build-up to the tournament in Russia and has been overlooked for games against Spain and Switzerland this season.
He was also left out by Jose Mourinho for the first two games of the new campaign but the 28-year-old helped United to their first clean sheet at Burnley before scoring a spectacular volley in the 2-1 win at Watford on Saturday.
"It's obviously difficult [watching the World Cup], I am not going to lie," said Smalling.
"You want to be involved for a top club, you want to be involved for your country as well and it was a disappointment, but I had to turn it into a positive to a point where I have my rest and I have a full preseason which I have not had for a while. You take it from there and hit the ground running this season.
"It was a difficult time but you have to try and take the positives."
Smalling's international exile looks set to continue while Southgate is in charge, with the former Middlesbrough boss preferring defenders he believes are more comfortable on the ball.
Nemanja Matic admitted to being "surprised" after the game at Watford that Smalling did not go to the World Cup after playing nearly 50 games for United last season but the centre-back insists his focus now is only on his club career.
"I haven't had any discussions [with Southgate] but I am lucky I play for a top club and we have got lots of games and that's where all my focus is going to be now because Man United is my sole focus right now," he said.
"I felt last year I played a lot of games and I hope this year to play a lot of games and as much as I can."
Smalling will be part of the United squad that travels to Switzerland on Tuesday to kick off their Champions League campaign.
Mourinho has broken from his usual routine of training at Carrington the day before a European game to give his players a chance to get used to the 3G surface at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf ahead of the meeting with the Swiss champions on Wednesday.
"I have played on a 3G pitch for England against Lithuania a couple of a times," added Smalling.
"We will be travelling over a little earlier to make sure we train on that pitch so we can get used to it, but on the back of two away wins [against Burnley and Watford] I think we can build that momentum at a crucial time of the month where there are so many games."