Saturday, 8 August 2015

Smalling continuing to flourish into top class defender

Chris Smalling is getting better and better in a United shirt- gone are the days of the reckless, nervous, flustered youngster who looked out of his depth in a Red shirt.

I remember not so long ago, on these very pages, posting about how Smalling has developed into arguably our best defender and he continued his impressive form with another MOM performance against Spurs on Saturday. 

For all the talk about Sergio Ramos, I watched Smalling throughout the Spurs game and, not only did he keep their dangerman Harry Kane quiet, his brilliant lunging block to stifle Chadli was crucial in us winning the game.

Since his mindless red-card at City (in an angry outburst I tweeted that I never wanted him in a red shirt again), his positioning, diligence, discipline, leadership, reading of the game and temperament means that United's apparent desire for a new centre-back is not as desperate as it may seem. 

Having Morgan Schneiderlin (and, for the latter part of the game, Bastian Schweinsteiger) in front of him undoubtedly helped and, although Matteo Darmian was hugely impressive, for me Smalling was our best player against Spurs. 

LVG making him third captain (behind Rooney and Carrick) could be a masterstroke and, far from splashing out for Sergio Ramos, United should build the defence around the rapidly improving 25-year-old.

Of course Ramos would be a welcome addition, and the question of who  should partner Smalling in the back four remains a question not many United fans could answer: Phil Jones is injury prone, Daley Blind is a good footballer but not a centre-half, Marcos Rojo has yet to nail down a regular place in the side and Jonny Evans is seemingly out of favour with Van Gaal. 

For a long time, it seemed the pressure of playing for United hindered Smalling to such an extent that his confidence looked shot, he'd lose his head (metaphorically of course) playing even the simplest of passes and he'd squander possession time and again leaving United vulnerable.

I'm struggling to think of such an occasion in which I've seen a player improve so much in such a short space of time.
No longer a liability, Smalling has now developed into an indispensable rock in the backline, a player  who has shown tremendous self-belief, hard work and courage to turn himself into one of the Reds most influential performers.
Indeed, the way he's going, it may not be long before he is mentioned in the same breath as Nemanja Vidic and there is no higher compliment than that. 


Maybe the Reds defence is in good hands after all. 


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