SIR Alex Ferguson has told Chris Smalling he will be in Manchester United’s first-team next year – and leaving Fulham at the end of the season is not a gamble for the 20-year-old.
However, Smalling, who started in the reserves last August and became an £8million player in the space of seven games, admits the move has put pressure on him.
The defender was a solid replacement for Brede Hangeland in last week’s 0-0 draw with Wolves when the Norwegian’s wife went into labour on the morning of the match – and kept his place for Sunday's defeat to Everton.
But the smart money is on a young player warming the Old Trafford bench next season while the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic command the first-team places.
But United’s boss has reassured Smalling he stands just as much a chance of performing in front of 75,000 each week as the other two.
The defender said: “I’ll definitely be starting on the front foot in terms of a first-team place. Sir Alex sat me down and explained where I am – and where I’ll be going.
“You start off the season just hoping to get as many games as you can – and then you get an opportunity like this, and yeah, it does bring pressure.
“But it’s a compliment and a chance to show what you are worth, and hopefully I can repay it.”