Manchester United defender Chris Smalling hailed the former coach Louis van Gaal for helping him reach the quality that made the first team of the Three Lions squad.

LvG was sacked despite winning the FA cup in England as he failed to qualify for the Champions League but Smalling reveals that the coach played a huge part in his career.

Smalling who is 26 years old said: “Louis is very tactically aware. He really drilled us from the front to the back in terms of how we move, how we shift, and that’s helped me.”

On the first game against Russia, Smalling said the team has been watching videos and he is aware of their threats, especially 6ft 5in striker Zenit St Petersburg striker Artem Dzyuba, who scored eight goals in qualifying for the tournament. Smalling said the defence would be “very physical and aggressive” to contain the Russian attackers when they play their first game in Marseille on Saturday. Artem Dzyuba scored six goals in eight Champions League games for Zenit last season and will be leading the attack for Russia against England but Smalling assured that they were ready to contain him.

The player also mentioned that former top-flight referee David Elleray joined them and he explained a lot of things regarding the officiating at the tournament. He said Elleray made them understand they would get punished for even the slightest thing, so the defence would need to be extra careful compared to English Premier League. He also said they were prepared to avoid anything that would become a turning factor in the game at the tournament. England would take on Russia, Wales and Slovakia in the tournament where they are among the favourites to lift the trophy.