During the summer, a number of world class defenders, including Sergio Ramos and Mats Hummels, were reportedly on United’s radar but in the end Louis Van Gaal opted against signing a centre-back.
However, Smalling said that while his spot has not been under threat this season, the prospect of increased competition in the dressing room was enough to motivate him.
“It does spur you on,” he told MUTV.
“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’s always another player to take your place.”
After a couple of difficult seasons, the England centre-back has enjoyed a remarkable injury-free run, which has played a large part his improved performances.
“I’ve been happy with the past year, I’ve stayed relatively injury-free and been able to play games, build up and keep learning. I take a lot of positives from that,” he said.
“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’ve 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.”