Rooney: Smalling one of the best

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney believes teammate Chris Smalling is one of the top three centre-halves in the world and has backed his compatriot to get even better.

Smalling has been United's standout defender during Louis Van Gaal's tender at Old Trafford, particularly during the current campaign and many believe the England international will succeed Rooney as the club's captain.

Rooney admits he has been impressed by Smalling's emergence in the last 18 months and believes the 25-year-old is yet to hit the peak of his powers.

"He has been incredible and for me he is right up there in world football in terms of centre-halves," the 30-year-old told the club's official website.

"He is in the top three centre-halves in the world – I think he is that good. He is a great player and he is developing to become more of a leader of the back four.

"It is great to see for both United and England, and hopefully that can continue for him and he can help us to be successful."