Ahead of Manchester United’s FA Cup tie against Chelsea, Chris Smalling has sung in the praises of Raheem Sterling for being brave enough to speak out about racism in the game and in the media.

Chelsea suspended four of their fans after they allegedly racially abused Sterling at the end of last year and manager Maurizio Sarri labelled the behaviour “disgusting“. In response, Sterling launched an attack on the way black people are treated in football and how they are written about in the press.

In an interview with The Times, Smalling has revealed his teammates talk about racism and that he was impressed with the way Sterling behaved after the treatment he received at Stamford Bridge.

We talk about racism. His Instagram post was very brave. I fully applaud that. You can get caught up in the heat of the moment, shouting, but the fact that Raheem stepped away, composed something and then let the world read his view was the right way. He is changing the way that footballers are seen.

Smalling has insisted he wants to be remembered as a good guy and claims that even Manchester City fans have a positive view of him when they meet him around town.

I lead a normal life, exchanging pleasantries with people if I’m out. Even Man City fans come up and want pictures. People go, ‘You’re actually a nice guy, I didn’t realise’. Normally they just see the badge. Do I feel appreciated? I’m not sure. Sometimes when I meet people, and they’re so genuine, I feel I do get that appreciation and it’s nice to hear. You’re not always going to get the appreciation you feel you deserve.