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Chris Smalling explains why he left Manchester United for Roma this summer

Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling insists he did not leave Manchester United for Roma because of Harry Maguire’s move to Old Trafford.

United paid a world-record fee for a defender to acquire Maguire from Leicester for £80m ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.

The arrival of the England international pushed Smalling down the pecking order at centre-back, but the former Fulham man insists he would have embraced the increased competition for places had he remained in Manchester.

However, he is now relishing the chance to experience a different culture and way of life after joining Roma on loan at the end of August.

“He [Ole Gunnar Solskjaer] said I would get games,” Smalling told the Daily Telegraph. “I am used to playing when I am fit. Although that might have been slightly different this season. I would have had the cup games and then in the league, depending on injuries.

“Would it have been the 40-50 games that I am used to if fit? It might have been the 20-30. Still a good number of games but I want to play.

“Not really,” he replied when asked whether Maguire’s arrival influenced his decision. “I had spoken to the manager before Harry came and I knew I was behind him and Vic [Lindelof], but in previous seasons I had started behind [two first-choice centre-halves] and after four or five games I had worked myself into the team.

“I love a challenge and when a new centre-back comes in it makes you raise your game. You have to show more, you have to be more consistent.

“If I had stayed I would have taken on that challenge and I would have been very confident that I would have played the number of games that I was worthy of. Equally I have a challenge here at Roma. Going back [at the end of the season] I will have an added element that some of the centre-backs won’t have.

“The easy decision was to stay [but] this is the perfect opportunity to try and live in a different culture. In that respect it is like a total change, although football is still the same football.”

United return to Premier League action against West Ham on Sunday.

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