The Englishman was handed a one year extension over the summer but heart problems have reduced him to just three starts all season.
He announced in January that he would retire from playing in the summer and join up with Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff for the following campaign.
And Smalling, when asked about the prospect of his teammate coaching him next season, insisted it felt perfectly natural.
“Obviously, it was not too dissimilar to what Ryan Giggs did,” he said.
“With Michael I think it doesn’t feel too weird that he’s going into the coaching because he is such our figurehead of the team. I mean, our team is getting younger and younger, but Michael is the standout leader of our team.
“To see him stay with us and go into the coaching I think feels quite nice for all of us players, that there is a familiar face going into the coaching and someone we already looked up to massively anyway.”
Carrick has already spent some time on the bench under Mourinho, who clearly sees an acute footballing brain in the 36-year-old.
And it is no coincidence that he was standing alongside the boss and assistant Rui Faria as United came back to beat both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur over the last few weeks. Above anything, Carrick gets the psychology of these players, from the talkative and experienced Ashley Young to reserve keeper Joel Pereira. You get the sense that, like Sir Alex Ferguson, he has an expertise in people.
This may be the central reason behind why Mourinho has taken him on board. The boss, by his own admission, struggles to understand the point of view of others at times – something reflected in the lack of style or collective purpose to performances on occasions this season.
Sometimes, it seems, Mourinho doesn’t get through to key players when looking instil the resilience which has characterised their best displays under his tutelage. And Carrick may serve as the perfect man to bridge that gap next season.