Wednesday 25 March 2015

Much improved Smalling epitomises United's growth

The United and England defender has improved in the post-SAF era and is flourishing under Louis van Gaal.

Smalling's hesitancy and recklessness has made him a much maligned scapegoat.
The stupid red card at City in November cost United any realistic chance of a result, however he displayed a new-found resilience and returned from suspension to guide teenage rookies Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett through that opening 30 minute maelstrom in the win at Arsenal.

Since then, he has emerged and blossomed as arguably United's best defender and thoroughly deserves any new deal that may come his way.
Since Sir Alex retired, Smalling has developed into the Reds best centre-back.
David Moyes erroneously started Smalling as a right-back, where he was comprehensively outwitted in the 4-1 defeat at City last year (the less said about that the better), whereas whenever he started in the centre he flourished, memorably at home and away against Arsenal.  

This United side is growing and Smalling epitomises that: in recent weeks he has rendered Harry Kane anonymous in the 3-0 win over Spurs and largely kept Daniel Sturridge on the fringes of the game in our win at Anfield.

He was solid throughout and his previously careless distribution appears to have improved in recent months.
Stirred under the astute management of van Gaal, there is a marked difference between the tentative, haphazard and fretful Smalling of August in the 3-5-2, and the assured, diligent and composed Smalling 2.0 of March.

He was thrust straight back into the side against Chelsea in October following a month long injury lay-off and again impressed, and, up until he limped off at Southampton, looked to be building an encouraging understanding with new recruit Marcos Rojo. 

He even turned match-winner in United's 3-1 over Burnley last month, and since he returned to the starting line-up following that game, United's only league defeat came with him on the sidelines at Swansea.

Smalling has always had potential and quality in abundance, but LVG is now nurturing and bringing his talent through on a weekly consistent basis, so much so that talk of United needing a whole new defence this summer may have been exaggerated.

Rio and Vida will never truly be replaced, but with Smalling now blossoming and Rojo also proving to be an excellent signing at the back, United's defence looks to be in safe hands for many years to come. 

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