A few years ago it would be unforgivable for a Manchester United defender to admit he had grown up as an Arsenal fan. Thankfully for Chris Smalling, who was 15-years-old when Arsene Wenger’s men last won a trophy, the rivalry between the two clubs has almost disappeared thanks to a lack of competition between them. Both teams began a transnational period in 2005 but only Manchester United have emerged on the other side as a successful team, whilst Arsenal have failed to recreate the success of Wenger’s early years.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Smalling has spoken about the winning mentality that is ingrained at United, as well as his Arsenal supporting past.
“I was a fan,” he replied, when asked of his early support for Arsenal. “Tony Adams was a true leader. Him and Martin Keown’s relationship was very good at the heart of that defence. I liked Thierry Henry. I watched Arsenal so much on TV. I did get the chance to go to Highbury and the Emirates when it first opened.”
In the past week, Roberto Mancini claimed that Manchester United were “lucky” to be 12 points clear at the top of the table, but Smalling suggests that it is the winning mentality at the club that they have to thank for their advantage.
“At this club it’s always drilled in to me: ‘Make sure you’re a winner, go about off the pitch like you’re a winner,’” he said. “It helps when you have players like Giggsy and Rio who’ve won a lot. You see them side-by-side with you and that really drives you on. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the 93rd minute, Giggsy is making his jinky, mazy little runs. You could forgive him for maybe not coming out training every day, because he’s done so much in the game, but every day he’s out there. He doesn’t seem to need a rest. He’s not one of the noisiest ones in the dressing room but as we come in from the warm-up, he goes round, talks to everybody, gives them little information or says ‘good luck’. He’s very mellow. If one of the young lads might be nervous, it’s nice to see someone not getting too pumped up. When you see Ryan like that it chills you out.”