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United swoop for Fulham youngster Smalling

Manchester United have agreed terms to sign defender Chris Smalling from Fulham but his new club have confirmed he will only play for them from the start of the 2010-11 season.

• Hackett: Smalling move makes sense

A club spokesperson told United's official website: "Manchester United has agreed terms for the transfer of Chris Smalling from Fulham.

"Chris has agreed personal terms with the club and will join for the beginning of the 2010-2011 campaign. He will remain at Fulham until the end of the current season."

Smalling, who impressed on his Premier League debut against Chelsea last month, has only two league appearances under his belt but has played four times in the Europa League for the Cottagers this season. He will now have the chance to gain further experience with Fulham this season, under the terms of the agreement struck between the clubs.

Smalling started for his current employers at Tottenham on Tuesday night just hours after the deal was announced. Cottagers boss Roy Hodgson admits he is sad to see Smalling leave and believes United have snapped up an exciting talent.

"I knew some time ago United had put in an offer,'' Hodgson told Sky Sports 2 after the game, which Spurs won 2-0. "As far as I know the clubs have reached an agreement and he's going for a medical tomorrow.

"It's disappointing because we're losing a great talent who has a very exciting future and I would have loved him to play in a Fulham shirt. But when United come calling it's not that easy to stand in a player's way.

"I've got to congratulate Alex (Ferguson). He'll (Smalling) go on to do great things for Man United and it's a pity I'll be watching him do it for them and not Fulham.''

Arsenal had been heavily linked with the England Under-21 international, but United made the first and decisive move.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had stated that he has also made an offer for Smalling and maintained that until the ink was dry, no deal could be considered done. The Frenchman will now need to cast his eyes elsewhere in his hunt for a reserve to Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas.

It is believed a fee in the region of £8 million has prised the talented centre-back away from Craven Cottage and should he sign for United, he would bolster Sir Alex Ferguson's defensive options, though many would observe that his signing opens the way for the mooted departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Smalling's playing style more resembles the Englishman than the hard-bitten Serb.

Smalling, 21, previously played for Maidstone United and was plying his trade in the Ryman Premier League - the seventh tier of the English football pyramid - only two years ago.


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