Van Gaal the mastermind behind United's stubborn defence - Smalling


Chris Smalling has attributed Manchester United's strong defensive record this season to manager Louis van Gaal's instructions on the training pitch.

United have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season - eight from 12 matches - as they occupy fourth spot in the table.

Smalling has played a key role in United's strong start to the campaign, having started in every fixture, and the 25-year-old centre-back believes an understanding among the players has been built under Van Gaal's guidance.

"I think it's the hard work on the training field," he explained to MUTV when questioned on the statistic.

"We do a lot of tactical play, we play a lot of 11 versus 11s and, in terms of how the pitch is broken up, we know where as a front pair when to drop and how deep for us to go.

"Each day, we work on that and I think it's paying off where, no matter who comes into the team, we know our jobs.

"We do a lot of defensive organisation at the Aon Training Complex, and also our counter-attacking and how we attack as well. Everyone knows their position when we've got the ball and when we've not got the ball and I think that's crucial when you come to a Saturday.

"The ball could fall wherever due to circumstances but, if you know your job, you can come up against anything."

Smalling has enjoyed his strongest season to date at Old Trafford this term and feels comfortable whether lining up alongside Phil Jones or Daley Blind.

"I do feel confident," he said. "I think it's a case when you get those run of games, and you do feel like you're playing well, then you feel like you can just keep going and you just want the games to keep coming.

"Each of us [at centre-half] have got our positive traits that we like to show in the games. I think we complement each other and whenever one goes up, the other is always covering.

"Whichever of the three of us is selected to play, I think we all know the distances that we need to cover and I feel that's crucial, especially where you can't have any gaps in the back nine."

United will look to close the gap to the teams above them when they face Premier League newcomers Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday.