Chris Smalling is preparing to face Manchester United tonight, for the first time since he left the club for Roma.

He joined the Italian outfit on loan in August 2019, before they bought him in October 2020.

Smalling has recently recovered from injury but said at yesterday pre-match press conference that he is ready to play 90 minutes if required.

Another player who has had injuries recently is Marcus Rashford, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he is fit to play tonight.

Smalling may well be charged with stopping his countryman and fromer tonight and we have had a look back at his first impression of Rashford.

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
(Peter Powell – Pool/Getty Images)

Rashford broke into the side in February 2016, and Smalling gave an interview to the club website in July 2019 where he raved about the impression the forward made.

“Obviously, it was under Louis van Gaal when I first came across him. Louis was very confident in the youngsters,” said Smalling. “He got the youth team to come over and we played a game against them.

“The ball got played in behind and I just saw Rashy zoom down to get the ball. At that moment, everyone took notice of him. That first sprint down the wing was when a lot of us were asking: ‘Who is this kid?’

 

“It was obviously that pace that first alerted us but I know now, as I’ve been playing with him for so long, that he’s got everything. He is a special talent. He almost took it all in his stride. You could tell he was a confident kid.

“You need to be at this club. He wasn’t fazed. You could see he was a special talent. The manager at the time knew that and put him straight in.”

AS Roma v Genoa CFC - Serie A
(Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Roma and United were the beaten finalists in last season’s competition, by Inter and Sevilla respectively.

That hurt will drive both sides on to try and go one better this time around and Smalling will be keen to offer United a reminder of his quality.

Between breaking into the team in 2016 and Smalling’s interview in 2019, Rashford took on more and more responsibility within the squad and that evolution has grown ever since.

Smalling knows Rashford’s game inside out from club and international duty and will be trying to make sure his teammates know what they’ll come up against tonight.

He is as capable as anyone of making the difference on a huge night for United as they look to win their first semi-final under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, at the fifth attempt.

Rashford has 20 goals this season, more than any Roma player has contributed, and the United star will be looking to add to his tally tonight at Smalling’s expense.

Have something to tell us about this article?