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Transfer Rater: Anthony Martial to Barcelona

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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Manchester United's Chris Smalling: Transfer talk spurred me on

Chris Smalling says rumours linking Manchester United with a new centre-back inspired him to hit top form this season.

England international Smalling, 26, has been a key figure in Louis van Gaal's defence in recent months and has helped United keep 15 clean sheets in 29 appearances in all competitions.

He said he was driven to perform at his best after seeing the club linked with a number of top central defenders -- most notably Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels -- in 2015.

"It does spur you on," he told MUTV when asked how he reacted to the speculation.

"When you come to Manchester United, in every transfer window -- whether the team is doing well or badly -- there are always players linked with the club because this club is always linked with the best players.

"It keeps you on your toes and spurs you on. You can't rest on six months of good performances because as soon as you have a blip, there is always another player to take your place."

Smalling said he was pleased to have established himself as a reliable performer at the back.

"I have been happy with the past year," he added. "I have stayed relatively injury-free and have been able to play games, build up and keep learning. I take a lot of positives from that.

"Towards the end of last season and in the summer, somebody needed to step up and make sure they were consistent. In the last couple of years we have had a lot of injuries in the centre-back positions, so in these last 12 months I have been happy and injury-free with the manager's faith."

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