Chris Smalling has been voted Manchester United’s Player of the Month for October and the in-form defender has admitted he is proud to have been recognised by the fans.

Impressively, Smalling registered 72 per cent of votes cast by visitors to ManUtd.com to finish above fellow nominees Marcos Rojo (16 per cent) and Anthony Martial (12 per cent) in the poll.

It is the first time the England international has won a monthly award, but he has come mightily close on two occasions this season by finishing second and third in the voting for August and September.

During an exclusive interview at Old Trafford, Smalling was clearly pleased to win the prize. “Yes, it’s a massive achievement and one that I’m very proud of, that the fans have recognised the work that goes in on the pitch. I’m happy that I’m the player that’s been chosen this month.”

This award is the latest highlight in a season that has started brilliantly for Smalling, who has so far made more appearances (19) than any other Red and has arguably been our most influential performer.

Louis van Gaal has even made him captain in the occasional absence of Wayne Rooney, who has also heaped praise on his defensive team-mate. In fact, the no.10 recently claimed in an interview with United Review that Smalling “is in the top three centre-halves in the world – I think he is that good”.

Asked how it felt to receive such a compliment from Rooney, the England centre-back said: “It makes you feel such a great feeling that Wazza, being one of the top players in the world, is saying such compliments like that. It’s one that sort of spurs me on, to really kick on and push on to justify that.”

Van Gaal was pleased to learn Smalling has won the Player of the Month prize during his weekly interview with MUTV and the manager was quick to explain his flourishing centre-back is part of a group of Reds who are improving.

“He is one of the players who has improved himself a lot and I am a happy manager,” the boss explained on Friday afternoon, ahead of the match with West Brom. “But the fans have to be happy also, because they see the development of a lot of players who are also improving. I hope that they see that as well.”

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