Ex Man United star outlines why Smalling deserved his new contract

The centre back is one of an impressive group of defenders according to Manchester United legend Paul McGrath.

Manchester United secured defender Chris Smalling to a new long-term contract this week, a sure indication that Old Trafford boss Louis van Gaal has been impressed with the 25-year-old.

United legend Paul McGrath has also been singing the former Fulham man's praises on the club's website, a man who knows a thing or two about keeping clean sheets for the Red Devils, having starred for the club between 1982 and 1989.

"Chris is very sharp and quick going forward," the 55-year-old said. "I love the speed that he has.

"And a bit like myself, he likes to roam with the ball at his feet. It's hard to compare centre-backs now to players from my era though, because they can't go into fifty-fifty tackles like we used to do!"

Smalling scored his fourth goal of the season against Manchester City recently to underline his importance under Van Gaal, and has extended his stay at the club until at least 2019.

McGrath was a wonderfully gifted central defender himself, with an impressive career that spanned long stints at Old Trafford and Aston Villa, where he negotiated issues with his knees to play at the highest level into his late 30s.

The Republic of Ireland favourite also ran the rule over a few more of United's central defenders, and he had positive things to say about summer acquisition Marcus Rojo.

"I watched him in the World Cup last summer and I thought then, before he signed for United, that he is a class act," the Irishman said. "I like the way he plays football – he’s not afraid to make a pass and he’s not afraid to receive one, although he’s perhaps more of an out-and-out defender than some of the others who like to move forward with the ball."

McGrath also touched on England international Phil Jones, praising the defender's commitment and bravery: "I have to say I really admire Jones," he added. "He's one of those defenders who’s prepared to put his head in where it hurts. He looks like he would go through a brick wall for you."

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