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Chris Smalling believes he can forge a partnership with Phil Jones at club and international level

Manchester United duo Smalling and Jones started in central defence together against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday for the first time this season.

Chris Smalling put in one of his best individual displays in a Manchester United shirt in the 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

The 25-year-old has come in for plenty of criticism during his career at Old Trafford, but has been fantastic at the heart of the defence this season.

Following his red card against Manchester City at the start of the campaign, Smalling has learned from his error, grown in stature and is now almost an automatic pick for Louis van Gaal.

Smalling has forged an excellent understanding with summer signing Marcos Rojo, but with the Argentine out injured against Spurs, he was paired with Phil Jones for the first time in a back four under Van Gaal.

Jones and Smalling know each other well, having grown up together in the England U21s before becoming teammates at United and in the England senior team.

The former Fulham defender wants to form a long-term partnership with Jones. He told the MEN: “If we can produce performances like that and if we can get a good run of games that will serve us good hopefully for when we meet up with England.

“I think Phil and I could play together for England. I was saying after the game me and Phil, it’s been a little while since we played together - probably not since last season. We know what each other’s game is. We understand each other’s games.”

Smalling and Jones have the small matter of a crunch clash with arch-rivals and fellow top-four hopefuls Liverpool to prepare for, with a trip to Anfield due to be made on Sunday, before attention then turns to international competition.

England face Lithuania in a Euro 2016 qualifier at Wembley on March 27, before taking in a friendly date with Italy four days later.

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