Date: 7th June 2022 at 2:21pm
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Chris Smalling was signed for Manchester United by the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson in 2010, with plans for him to prop up their defence for years to come.

However, following the Scotsman’s retirement in 2013, Smalling struggled to find consistency amongst the manager carousel at Old Trafford.

In 2020, he decided that his time in Manchester was up, and he permanently reunited with former United boss Jose Mourinho in Roma after a successful loan spell the year prior. The catalyst for the 32-year-old’s exit could potentially have been the £80m signing of Harry Maguire, which saw him fall even further down the pecking order.

However, whilst Maguire has had a tumultuous tenure at Manchester United, Smalling has been thriving in the Italian capital.

The former England international has found his feet under Mourinho, and the two have enjoyed a successful year. Roma’s defence boasted 15 clean sheets in the league, which is only bested by that of the two Milan clubs and Napoli.

Whereas in the red half of Manchester this season, they slumped to their worst ever Premier League finish, no doubt aided by their catastrophic 57 goals conceded.

Smalling has also earned praise for his combative and assured display in the final of the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League, where he earned Man of the Match as Roma won their first European title in over 60 years. He was described by those who selected the Man of the Match award as “solid as a rock in the heart of the Roma defence”.

His average SofaScore rating of 7.02 in the league also paints the picture of a consistent performer who really does prop up a well-organised Roma side. Comparatively, he is rated higher than any centre back for Manchester United this season.

Mourinho has been full of praise for the Greenwich born defender, as he dubbed him a “fantastic player” who is “doing amazing for us”. He also enjoyed joking about his affectionate nickname, which combines Smalling’s name with an Italian legend: “He’s recognised in Italy as ‘Smalldini’, half Smalling, half (Paolo) Maldini”.

Smalling, who had captained the club on many occasions, was ever-present for United whilst at the club. He suffered at times with some larger injuries but was shown unfair treatment in the manner of his exit.

To compare how two careers have shifted in opposite directions, one should look no further than Smalling and Maguire. Maguire was signed for a then world-record fee for a defender, whilst Smalling was allowed to leave after being deemed surplus to requirements by Solksjaer.

Since then, Smalling has earned widespread praise and has even won a trophy, something which the Red Devils have not done since Mourinho was in the Old Trafford dugout back in 2017. Perhaps if United were not so brazen with moving on their staff, they might end up with a few people out to repay their faith rather than those out to prove them wrong.

In other news, Ten Hag must avoid first Man Utd transfer howler over “magic” £67.5m-rated lightweight.


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