Does Chris Smalling Deserve Another Chance To Start When Manchester United Play Huddersfield Town?
Chris Smalling has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism over the course of his Manchester United career, and even more so during the last couple of seasons. He was called out by fans for being slow and unresponsive, following which he found himself on the sidelines more often. He was truly weak back then but his display at Anfield against Liverpool certainly does show some hope for his future.
Although he was experiencing several problems, he seemed a lot more solid against United’s Merseyside rivals. He may have picked up a yellow card but that has been a long-standing issue with him. Having said that, the player seemed to have no trouble keeping the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah at bay.
On a night when Jose Mourinho deployed Manchester United in a deeply-defensive formation, the back line certainly did not let him down – and Smalling played a crucial role in that. He was handed a start in place of Eric Bailly since the latter picked up an injury while on international duty. When the line-ups were announced, several United fans were concerned. After all, Bailly and Jones’ central defensive partnership was the talk of the town for a while, and having to rely on Smalling seemed a tad too risky.
However, they must have been quite pleasantly shocked to see the way Smalling played that night. According to stats by Squawka, Smalling completed 50% of his tackles and won 100% of his aerial duels. Jones, however, made 4 interceptions while Smalling made none. Having said that, it is still a long way for him to come after the way he played over the previous couple of seasons.
Had he been given a similar responsibility a season or two back, Smalling would have faltered immediately. Moreover, when compared to a certain Dejan Lovren, the United defender fared better by leaps and bounds.
With the match against Huddersfield coming up, it remains to be seen if Mourinho chooses to give Smalling another chance. However, the player has shown signs of improvement, and if he is to continue his upward trajectory in form, he needs to clock more minutes on the field. United are quite strong at the moment, and perhaps the Portuguese manager should consider allotting another chance for Smalling. With Bailly unavailable for this weekend’s fixture, this is the ideal opportunity for Smalling to make a good impression.