Wednesday 4 November 2015

Mike Smalling shines and coming of age for Lingard

Tuesday night's win over CSKA Moscow was a welcome one- a first goal in 404 minutes, a clean sheet, top spot in the group and Wayne Rooney moved level with Denis Law on 237 United goals.

Jesse Lingard was man of the match and the pivotal moment of the match was a simply sensational, world class block from Mike Smalling- one of the best I've ever seen- to keep the match at 0-0 moments before the breakthrough. 

For Lingard, this felt like the night his United career took off- it's easy to forget he started LVG's first game in charge but went off injured and- four loan spells later- the 22-year-old is back at United determined to make an impression.

Fearless, brave and incisive, his cross for the winner was sublime and, although not a natural winger by trade, his pacy running and superb delivery gave United a creative outlet that has been lacking in recent weeks.

I've been a fan of his for a while now, and it's not the first time he's made an impact this season- his introduction off the bench in the derby almost saw him snatch a late headline-making winner.
His performance on Tuesday was not always flawless, but he was a constant threat throughout and the 22-year old was voted star man by the club's fans against CSKA . 

He's been capped eleven times for the England Under 21 team and with more performances like Tuesday's, the senior side may beckon for the Warrington-born Academy graduate.  

As for Smalling, well, his block on the line to keep out Doumbia was world class and epitomises the defender's stunning elevation to surely the best centre back in the league. 

CSKA did not offer much going forward so Smalling did not have a lot to do until Doumbia came on but the Ivorian gave the visitors extra attacking thrust and provided a stern test for Smalling, one that the 25-year-old stood up to magnificently. 

His reading of the game, decision-making, composure and leadership have made Mike invaluable to the Red cause- and that, coupled with a new-found ability to play the ball out brilliantly from the back- give him all the attributes of a future United (and possibly England) captain. 

Since LVG mistakenly called Chris 'Mike' in the USA he has been simply immense for United and, after the manager repeated the trick on Tuesday, we hope it will continue to be an inspirational nickname for the England man. 

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