The time has now come for him to re-introduce himself to some former team mates. The cauldron that awaits him at Anfield will have to wait for a good few months yet, but City's number seven will be one of the chief players looking to put Liverpool to the sword when they visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening.
As has so often been proven, making pre-season predictions about league football is the most certain way for a journalist, blogger or pundit to make an absolute fool of themselves. Placing your words and reputation on the line before a ball has been kicked is, in 90% of cases, a true recipe for disaster.
Smalling has historically struggled on some big occasions, but at 25, it finally looks as though he has developed a leadership mentality for Van Gaal. Unlike this time a year ago, he can be entrusted with the responsibility of stopping United's bitter rivals and in a game that could wrestle the momentum away from the Blue half of Manchester...
With every passing season, it seems like peaks and troughs in form are played for more and more importance. A run of wins means that a team is on a charge to the title, but a single draw means that the run has ended, they've been found out, they'll be lucky to finish in the top four... You know the deal.
The 29-year-old can't follow on those lines, and inevitably it's going to have to go one of three ways for the Spaniard in sky blue; either he drastically improves, he remains content with a place on the bench when better players are fit, or he departs. Whether Pellegrini is vigilant enough to send him on his way remains to be seen, but perhaps that job will fall to the man that inevitably succeeds him.
If City were beating chump teams, the way that Liverpool fans held up 1-0 wins over Stoke and Bournemouth as proof that they were flying, then City flying out of the blocks could be dismissed as nothing. An illusion of the fixture list. But they aren't.
It wouldn't take much for Chelsea to be firm favourites, perhaps just one marquee signing to boost their strongest team and keep every player on their toes. But without it, Chelsea will struggle. You'd be foolish to think any different.
Remember when a £20million transfer was a headline-making deal, rather than the norm? Unless you're a pretty young teenager, you probably do, which speaks to how quickly the transfer market has twisted and evolved in the last decade or so...
Going from "I'm not leaving, I'm staying at the football club" to "leaving Aston Villa football club is the hardest decision I have ever had to make" in less than a week is some retraction and without needing too much insight, it's one you would assume was prompted by the imminent departure of Christian Benteke to Liverpool.
What exactly is his crime? Turning down a lucrative contract offer because he wasn't happy with his general situation at the club? Not being quite as guarded with his media comments as he should've been? He's 20 years old. Show me a 20-year-old who hasn't said something ill-advised when frustrated and I'll show you a liar.
James Milner; gone. Frank Lampard; gone. Micah Richards; gone. Scott Sinclair; gone. Dedryck Boyata; gone. John Guidetti; also gone. These are the six homegrown players casually discarded by Manchester City this summer - only one of whom they had any intention of trying to keep.
He is the type of player the club need if they want to be successful. Sure, he's not the quickest, nor the most skilful, nor is he ever likely to finish high up the goalscoring charts, but in a squad packed full of talent and in a team bursting with expensive and flashy recruits, the simple truth is that City are better with Milner in the side.
Aguero, to put it frankly, has been remarkable ever since he signed for Manchester City from Atletico Madrid for £38million in 2011. From his debut, where he scored twice, stealing the show in a 4-0 hammering of Newcastle, 'Kun' has been chief supplier of goals at the Etihad Stadium.
As the money creeps further into the game, albeit slowly, is that increasing the pressure, which increases the intensity, which increases the likelihood of players losing their heads in the heat of the moment?
Manchester City have been far too naive in the transfer market since building their first Premier League title winning squad. It's a team which still remains, has reached its peak and gone far past it. So much so that it's become a problem. Serious work needs to be done.
With Monday night's loss to Crystal Palace, City's defence of their title is dead and buried. Y'know, even more than it was before. Nine points behind the leaders, who have a game in hand over them. It's not the worst title defence in recent times - that dubious honour has to go to United last season - but it's been pretty limp from a previously all-conquering team.