Chris Smalling has revealed that Manchester United fans continue to call him Mike since Louis van Gaal called him it by mistake during a summer press conference.
Smalling and his Dutch manager were meeting the media during pre-season when the coach introduced him as “Mr Mike Smalling”, leading to much stifled laughter amongst journalists.
Van Gaal corrected himself moments later, and apologised to his centre-half, but the name appears to have stuck amongst the Old Trafford faithful, who use it in good nature.
The England international told the Manchester Evening News that the nickname has been tough to elude, saying:
The players don’t [call me it] but I think a lot of the fans do.
You go to Russia or wherever and it’s Mike, Mike, Mike. It’s going to stick with me forever, that one!
Ironically, van Gaal was actually trying to underline how important Smalling is to his team when he called him the wrong name, and it’s an opinion shared in heir dressing room, with captain Wayne Rooney insisting that Smalling is amongst the top three defenders in world football at the moment.
But the former Fulham man is trying to keep his feet on the ground and focus on learning.
The manager says a lot of things that I try to take on board and I think he wants you to express yourself. And when he shows a trust in you I just want to repay it and do as well as I can.
When you hear such good praise, especially from Wazza and the manager, you just want to show them that it’s not just words that are meaningless.
I think with two of the older players going in Vida and Rio there was a case where you need someone to step up.
Smalling may even be handed the captain’s armband when his side take on Middlesbrough in the League Cup last 16 tomorrow night.