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United v City bigger than United v Liverpool - Smalling

ESPN staff
October 21, 2011 « Chelsea 'closest' to £40 million Eden Hazard | Chartbeat test »

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is eagerly awaiting this Sunday's derby clash with Manchester City, insisting it now represents "the biggest game" the Red Devils face.

Smalling, 21, got his first taste of the Manchester derby last season, starting alongside Nemanja Vidic as United beat City 2-1 at Old Trafford thanks to Wayne Rooney's spectacular overhead kick. The centre-back also scored against City as United won this year's Community Shield and he is relishing the prospect of locking horns with Mancini's side again.

And while matches against Liverpool have traditionally been viewed as the ones most anticipated by United fans - with Sir Alex Ferguson stating as much last week - Smalling believes City's emergence as title contenders now makes the derby a bigger game.

"It is one game I want to win more than any other,'' Smalling told the Manchester Evening News. "I think this is the biggest game and biggest derby we face now.

"City have been investing and growing steadily and have hit some great form this season. Straightaway when you come here to the city the Manchester derby is something everybody talks about.

"Yes I was an Arsenal fan and loved the derbies I went to see against Spurs. I loved the passion of the occasion. But I am very much United now and this derby has overtaken the north London one in my mind.''

And Smalling, who made his senior debut for England in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria last month, believes defence will be the key to winning the top of the table clash.

"City have been very solid the last few years but this year they have gone out and bought some attacking players so they have two sides to their game now. The defences on Sunday could be key. It could come down to which is more solid because both sides have got great attacking talent.

"These are the kind of tests I want. It is great to be able to say you have played against some of the best players and have more than matched them. I think it is great to have that challenge on your doorstep. A lot of the fans enjoy the rivalry but the players relish it as well. It is a big test.''

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