Chris Smalling Struggles For Starting Spot At United

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No matter how this gets resolved, one thing is for sure: these are worrying times for Chris Smalling.

Courtesy: YouTube

After signing for Manchester United in 2010, Chris Smalling was rated as a player who could become ManU’s first choice as a central defender for years to come. While the early stages of Smalling’s career looked promising, he has struggled to fulfill that potential. Frequent and nagging injuries have contributed to stalling his development.

There’s no doubt that Smalling has the physical status to be a world-class defender. His aerial strength and ability to defend set pieces are magnificent. However, technical deficiencies have raised questions.

Smalling’s marking is not convincing. He has a tendency to escort his marker into the box rather than staying tight. He also invites pressure at the back because of an inability to use his feet comfortably. And Smalling lacks confidence with the ball whenever he’s in possession.

Jose Mourinho started Smalling in the Europa League final win against Ajax but, later, singled out Smalling for criticism. Mourinho admitted deploying a long-ball tactic in the final because of Smalling’s limitations in passing and bring the ball out from the back.

That admission tells us that Mourinho doesn’t see Smalling as a ball-playing defender. It also explains why the England defender has slipped down the pecking order in United’s back four.

After showing early signs that he could be the perfect replacement for former United defender, Rio Ferdinand, Smalling status today is unclear.

Smalling has been relegated to the fringes of United’s squad and his future is in doubt. For one thing, new arrival Victor Lindelof is waiting in the wings for a starting spot. And the strong partnership of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones–the heart of United’s defence–makes it difficult for Smalling to break into the United’s starting eleven.

Mourinho has claimed that the 27-year-old “should have been braver” in his recovery last year from a knee injury–an injury that kept him out of nine games. Mourinho also said that Smalling lacks the mental toughness to push himself to the limit.


Has Mourinho decided Smalling’s fate? If so, it’s unlikely that Smalling will be offered a new contract when his current deal expires. And Smalling could be offloaded as soon as Victor Lindelof settles in. Smalling was reportedly linked during the summer with a move to Arsenal, but Mourinho decided to keep him in order to add depth to the squad.

Smalling believes that his manager’s criticisms are intended to bring out the best out in him. But, even if that’s true, I believe Mourinho’s comments say that Smalling’s technical qualities are lacking.

Mourinho has made no secret that his goal is to build a United side that’s capable of competing on all fronts. He needs to decide whether to keep Smalling as a squad player or plan for his exit. Smalling, on the other hand, must convince Mourinho that he’s capable of contributing in significant ways.

No matter how this gets resolved, one thing is for sure: these are worrying times for Chris Smalling.


About Geoffrey Ofoegbu

I’m from Abuja, Nigera. I have passion for football (soccer) and enjoy writing articles about the clubs, managers, players, and anything connected with the game. It has always been my dream to be a sport columnist. Joining the team at TSC is a stepping stone to fulfilling that dream–launching a career in the sports industry. Sport of Expertise: Football, Basketball. Favorite Teams: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal. Favorite Players: Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Antonio Valencia.

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