United and Smalling take the low road
Manchester United today boarded the train to London in their quest for European glory. Sir Alex Ferguson and his squad of millionaires jumped on the Virgin train to Euston as they count down to their showdown with Barcelona at Wembley – and how good was it to see Red Nev playing cards with the lads along the way! The United stars may be the centre of the world’s attention in 48 hours time on Saturday night but they didn’t look like superstars as they shunned flying in favour of travelling overland.
Ferguson – wearing a stylish navy suit – was seen chatting on his mobile phone on the platform, possibly picking up the latest news ahead of watching two of his horses race at Sandown on Thursday night.
His squad opted against formal wear, instead donning the distinctive red and black tracksuits for their two hour journey to the capital. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling will swap the living room for Wembley Stadium to watch the Champions League final.
The former Fulham centre back has been used to viewing European club football’s showpiece event on television from the comfort of a mate’s sofa in previous seasons. Now, barring a late injury to Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand, he is likely to have one of the best seats in the house – pitchside on United’s bench for the clash with an all-conquering Barcelona side.
‘I used to watch the Champions League at my mates houses all the time’ said Smalling who was famously playing for non league Maidstone United three years ago. ‘It has only been one season at United and I am already looking towards a Champions League final. It is going to be a great occasion at Wembley. It will be great to see all the friends and family. It should be a big finale.
On a personal level I did not expect it to turn out this way but it has been superb to feel part of the team. Even the group games, when you hear the music on a Tuesday or Wednesday – the music sets it alight. Everyone watches regardless whether you support a team or not. It is great just to be able to be part of it.’
Having joined Fulham in the summer of 2008, the 21 year old made his United debut in last year’s Community Shield after signing the previous January – and has so far played in the Champions League nine times. Having been loaned back to the Cottagers for the second half of last season, Smalling gained the unexpected bonus of playing in a side which reached the Europa League final.
He may be set to miss out on a second successive European final – he did not play in the defeat to Atletico Madrid in Germany, but believes the experience was invaluable.
Did Chris Smalling do enough to prove himself this season?