Chris Smalling has admitted he was distraught to miss out on the England squad for the summer’s World Cup tournament in Russia.
However, Smalling has also insisted that it now provides him with motivation for the current season and has treated not being called up as a positive for his Manchester United career.
While Smalling’s club teammate Phil Jones was part of the squad, England boss Gareth Southgate played with a back three of Leicester City’s Harry Maguire and Manchester City pairing John Stones and Kyle Walker. Smalling didn’t make the cut, with the manager wanting defenders who can pass out of the back well and build attacks from defence.
The United man, who has captained the Reds on several occasions, admitted he found it hard watching his countrymen.
“It’s obviously difficult [watching the World Cup], I am not going to lie,” Smalling said, via ESPN.
“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 absence from the squad meant he was available at the start of the season for United, as he said. With a full pre-season, that meant Jose Mourinho has used him as his main centre-back of the campaign so far. He scored a stunning goal in the Reds’ 2-1 win against Watford on Saturday evening.
Missing out on Russia could be a positive for his United career, with more appearances this season likely because of it.
“Man United is my sole focus right now,” Smalling continued.
“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.”