Chris Smalling signed for Manchester United in 2010 on the back of a handful of performances for Fulham and despite his failure to ever be a commanding centre half at Old Trafford, it is difficult to say that his Manchester United career – in his terms – has not been a success. Signed for £8m, Smalling has been reliable and steady. He has never been a top drawer talent, but perhaps he is unfairly judged by the failure of United to sign genuine elite talent during his time at the club.
The onus has often fallen on Smalling to man the barricades at Old Trafford; to be their Vincent Kompany, Virgil Van Dijk, and Gerard Pique all in one. He was never that player, but he has never shirked the challenge either. He is not gifted on the ball, nor is he elegant to watch; but he is a fearsome, physical defender that is needed in all squads.
Personally, I feel bad for Smalling that he has come in for so much criticism during his United tenure. Were United to appoint an elite manager tomorrow and grant him a £1 billion budget, I think there should still be a place for Chris Smalling.
Sure, Manchester City would have completed an end-to-end attack in the length of time it takes Smalling to wind up and get the ball on his preferred right foot, much akin to a javelin thrower in the Olympics, but he is an honest and hardworking player who has always given his all.
In an ideal world, Smalling would not be a starter at Manchester United, but he is an able body to deputise in the face of the unavailability of starters. He’s one player I wouldn’t mind seeing still around at Old Trafford in August.