Smalling hoping to make most of vegan diet ahead of season

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Manchester : Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is hoping a shift to a vegan diet will give him an edge over others in the competition for places at the club this football season.

With talks of United head coach Jose Mourinho planning to rope in another centre-back on top of the five -- Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo and Smalling -- it could be hard for the former Fulham player to start regularly.

According to media reports, the likes of Leicester City's Harry Maguire, Tottenham Hotspur's Toby Alderweireld and Yerry Mina of FC Barcelona are all United's target list.

"My wife is vegan and has been vegan for a few years. She cooks a lot at home and half the time I was eating vegan anyway. I wasn't fully vegan and when we would eat out I would eat what I would normally have," Smalling was quoted as saying by ESPNFC.

"After a while I started to cut out red meat. One of the reasons I started to was because red meat causes quite a lot of inflammation and I had quite a lot of tendinitis in my knee, which quite a lot of footballers get," he added,

"It causes a lot of that inflammation and when I was cutting that down, the tendinitis started to go. It used to be quite a problem in terms of all warm-ups because getting going was a bit of a nightmare. I ended up cutting that out and my tendinitis has got better and better and I've started to feel it less.

"Now I've gone fully vegan and normally the start of preseason can be quite a tough time because you're loading and that's normally when it's at its worst but I haven't felt it at all."

Smalling is also getting help from the team's chef. "The last step was, that took me a little while, was the club, especially in terms of travelling. Mike (the chef) has been very accommodating and when I told him, we worked out different menus and different options," he said.

"Some of the staff are vegetarian and some of the players try bits and pieces even though none of them are vegan. At the end of the day it's about eating more good things. There are other factors, not just that, but it's been a big one."

Smalling, who is injury prone and has averaged more than 45 games a season over the last three years, further stated that with age he has become more conscious of his diet.

"Obviously, the last couple of years it's been more plant-based and I do think that's a factor. Ultimately, what you're feeding yourself has a bearing on how you're going to perform," he said.

"You're never going to be bullet proof but if you're feeding yourself good food and making sure you're eating the right supplements I think you reduce the chances of getting any of those niggling injuries. Touch wood, I've not had any major problems since then and hopefully I can keep fit and play as many games as I can.

"It helps when you can keep banging out games and when you've got the manager's trust, that is what you want to feel. You want to know that he backs you and that he relies on you. As a centre-back, that's the feeling that you want the most."