Name: Chris Smalling
Twenty-fifteen proved to be Chris Smalling’s breakthrough year, the period in his Manchester United career where the 26-year-old showcased and fulfilled the potential the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson saw in him almost six years ago.
The England centre-half; who joined the Red Devils from Fulham back in January 2010, has demonstrated his captaincy credentials for both club and country with his commanding, reliable and impressive displays this year.
Many United fans feared the worst when they lost the formidable centre-half pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in the heart of their resolute defence, but finally their anxiety has been relieved by Smalling’s emergence as a senior member of Louis van Gaal’s squad.
The former Maidstone United defender has almost played as many games at the halfway stage of this season than the entirety of the previous campaign (29).
Smalling has featured in every single one of United’s league games this term, besides the 2-1 defeat to AFC Bournemouth earlier this month, to help the Red Devils grind out those all-important results from the last line of defence when his team’s attacking front are continually misfiring.
Not only has Smalling become one of the first players named on Van Gaal’s starting eleven at Old Trafford; the centre-half has become an ever-present character in Roy Hodgson’s England squad and he is destined to play a huge part in the Three Lions’ 2016 UEFA European Championships campaign next summer.