sport

Smalling eyes central role

Chris Smalling is targeting a starting centre-back role with club and country after keeping a clean sheet on his World Cup debut for England against Costa Rica on Tuesday.

Smalling was one of nine World Cup debutants for England as Roy Hodgson's side ended their campaign in Brazil with a 0-0 draw against the eventual Group D winners in Belo Horizonte.

And the 24-year-old, now in his fifth season at Old Trafford, is keen to impress new manager Louis van Gaal and establish himself as a first-choice central defender for United and England.

"It's the end of the season so obviously we will go on a break and next season I will look to really kick on and cement my position," Smalling said.

"Roy knows that I am a centre-back and I really want to cement it and be that number one.

"I feel that if I get my chance like I did today, I can go out there and deliver.

"Hopefully if I can go back to my club in the summer and really cement it, I can hopefully cement it for England as well. I am ready for this chance and it is about time I took it."

England finished bottom of Group D on one point following 2-1 defeats in their first two World Cup matches against Italy and Uruguay respectively.

Despite a disappointing campaign overall, Hodgson's side were given a standing ovation from the England faithful after Tuesday's match and Smalling was delighted by their reaction.

"It was a really touching moment that they were really right behind us at the end," he said.

"Even when we got to the hotel in Belo Horizonte, they were cheering us all the way despite the disappointment.

"You could accept it if they turned on us but they didn't - they have been terrific all the way through, it was great to see and it will drive us on for next time to make sure we deliver."