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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