Chris Smalling – Future United Star?
Chris Smalling was thrown in at the deep end on Saturday afternoon as he started what was without a shadow of a doubt his biggest game in a Manchester United jersey. Much had been made of Rio Ferdinand’s absence and questions were being asked as to whether Smalling would be up to the task. The Londoner responded with a resounding Yes and put in an assured display keeping Carlos Tevez quiet for the 90 minutes.
Smalling will be an inspiration to many young British footballers who are trying to make it. The 6ft 4inch defender failed to settle at various different football academies around the country and eventually joined non-league Maidstone United. His performances for “The Stones” led to a call up to the England Schools side which took on Australia in January 2008 and he then signed a two-year deal with Middlesborough in May of that year. The contract with Boro was cancelled as the player was concerned about homesickness and he eventually signed for Premier League side Fulham. Eighteen months later Smalling’s meteoric rise to the top was complete as in January 2010 United confirmed the signing of the youngster for a fee which could eventually reach £10 million. Smalling remained at Craven Cottage for the remainder of the season and officially arrived at Old Trafford in July 2010.
Sir Alex has slowly bedded Smalling into his squad and the player appears to be going from strength to strength. He made his United debut in the 3-0 home win over West Ham coming on as a late substitute for Jonny Evans and a couple of weeks later made his full debut as he played the full 90 minutes in the home Champions League 0-0 draw against Rangers. Smalling didn’t have to wait long to score his first goal for the Red Devils as he got onto the scoresheet in the 5-2 away win at Scunthorpe in the League Cup. He had to wait until the New Year to start his first Premier League game as he partnered skipper Nemanja Vidic in the 2-1 win over Stoke at Old Trafford and found himself partnering Vida again in the Manchester Derby on Saturday.
Smalling has come on in leaps and bounds over the last 6 months and will be delighted with his 18 appearances so far this season. He has made most of Sir Alex’s matchday squads and will be hoping to become a permanent fixture in the team over the next two years. Defensively United have been rock solid over the last 3 seasons and we are lucky to have players of the quality of Van Der Sar, Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra. With Van Der Sar retiring at the end of this season and Rio’s continuing injury problems it is important to look to the future. Sir Alex appears to have a potential world class right back on his hands in Rafael Da Silva and it will be interesting to see if Chris Smalling can also go on to develop into a top class defender at Old Trafford.
Smalling is far from the finished article but the signs so far have been encouraging. He is solid defensively, appears to read the game well, is good in the air and has pace. Hopefully a couple of years learning from two greats in Ferdinand and Vidic will see Smalling reach the potential we all know he has. With Smalling and the Da Silva twins knocking on the door of the first team and Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck making waves out on loan we could be seeing our first influx of young players since Fergie’s Fledglings in the mid nineties.
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