Ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has told Sky Sports that Manchester United's decision to hand a new contract to defender Chris Smalling was the right one.
Smalling, 25, was playing non-league football with Maidstone United in 2008, but now finds himself as a fixture of the Manchester United team.
A move to Fulham helped him get on the radar, and after just 19 appearances for the Cottagers, he joined Manchester United in 2010 - and was seen as the long-term heir to Rio Ferdinand at Old Trafford.
Now in his fifth season at United, Smalling is starting to look like the player many expected him to be, turning in a number of superb displays under Louis van Gaal, particularly since the turn of the year.
Yet there has been a lingering doubt over Smalling's future throughout the season, with his contract set to expire in just over a year's time.
However, United addressed that concern this week, handing Smalling a new contract to keep him at Old Trafford until 2019, suggesting that he will continue to be a key player for United in years to come.
Speaking to Sky Sports, pundit and former Liverpool defender Carragher believes that the England international deserves his new deal having improved markedly under van Gaal this season, taking on more of a leadership role in the United team.
"I think of late you can see the work Van Gaal’s done defensively on the training ground. Watching Smalling in clips we’ve done for Sky Sports recently, you can see he’s becoming more of a leader, more vocal," said Carragher.
"He seems to be the one pushing out of defence and giving instructions to different people, and that can only help his own confidence with a bit of maturity as he gets older and starts taking on more responsibility. I think he fully deserves that new contract," he added.