It is an important year for Manchester United and manager Jose Mourinho who is yet to grab the hearts of all Manchester United fans after a disappointing second season in charge. However, he is still constructing his squad to bring the title back to Old Trafford for the first time since 2013 but will this defender be there?
Chris Smalling has been with the Manchester side for eight years now and has two Premier League titles to his name. He also has an F.A Cup, an EFL Cup and a Europa League medal as well. Yet he has been the subject of criticism over his time at Old Trafford with displays of brilliance followed by displays that would not be out of place in lower league teams.
The main problem with Smalling is this inconsistency. He has not managed to stamp his authority in the side like many expected he would when he signed. With the dominance of Ferdinand and Vidic, Smalling was expected to take their place in the heart of the defence alongside fellow Englishman Phil Jones.
He has played at least 30 games a season for the Red Devils, apart from 2012-13 due to injury and 2014-15 when United were not in Europe, and is a valued member of the squad. He has been the captain on many occasions after Louis Van Gaal entrusted the centre-half with the responsibility. Under Van Gaal in his second season, Smalling looked like he was showing the the potential he showed as a youngster with some standout performances that led United to F.A Cup glory and him being named Player’s Player of the Year.
But under Mourinho, the inconsistent performances returned and the usual calm assured passing from the back turned into disastrous balls to the opposition and his pace was exploited by the quicker players in the league as they capitalised on the calamitous centre-half. His positioning is less than fantastic as he has failed to react to several attacks and has been culpable for many of the goals Manchester United have conceded this season.
Yet he was still trusted by the defence minded Mourinho, who signed two more centre halves as competition. However, Smalling become the get out of jail man by scoring away goals for fun including a redemption goal against Manchester City. After being labelled “stupid” for his sending off against the Blues in 2014, he scored the winner in the derby last season.
Despite the negatives surrounding him in recent times he has been part of the side that has kept 20 clean sheets this season in all competitions and a team to reach the F.A Cup final and finish 2nd in the league.
So should United finally end their tenure with Chris Smalling? My opinion is that he should leave Manchester United. Realistically, Smalling or Jones will leave Old Trafford with Mourinho bringing in a new centre half to really command the back line. His time with the Red Devils will be looked back on with a sense of what could have been. Despite winning several trophies, he could have been part of something bigger!