By Nick Teale
 
Arsène Wenger says he is sorry to have missed out on the signing of Fulham defender Chris Smalling.
 
According to the manager Arsenal came "very close" to capturing the Englishman, but says the most important thing is that the 20-year-old enjoys a successful career.
 
The London-born defender joined Fulham from non-league side Maidstone United in June 2008 and made his first-team debut against Everton at the end of last season. Smalling has been capped three times by England Under-21s and has made four appearances for Fulham so far this term.
 
Wenger recently confirmed his interest in signing the defender, but was left disappointed when he completed a move to Manchester United on Thursday afternoon.
 
"I am sorry because we were very close to getting him," said the manager "We were on the case very early.

"I wish the player well. At the end of the day it is important he has a good career. In both clubs he has a good chance to make a great career. The most important thing is he does that."

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 29 Jan 2010