By Liam “Wrestlemania” Brown
Did Fergie get it right at Benfica? Well, on the surface, a 1-1 draw in a rather hostile Estadio da Luz doesn’t look like too bad a result. The obvious highlights being Giggs’ landmark 27th Champions League goal, Lindegaard’s encouraging performance and SAF verbally tea bagging Kelly Cates. For me, there was another performance that appeared to slip under the radar, two words, Chris Smalling, a player who just gets better and better.
An enormous amount of praise has been lavished on a certain 19 year old from Lancashire, and rightly so, £16.5m is a lot of money, yet at the top you don’t always get much, but Jones is looking every bit the bargain (if there is such a thing) at his price tag, but his southern born counterpart appears to be making equal strides in their combined bid for regular appearances in our back four. We could go on all day about Jones’ promise, but I’d prefer to concentrate on Smalling for now, because although I certainly wouldn’t be ignorant to suggest he’s underrated, I simply feel that his extra 16 or 17 months at United gives us more room for analysis.
No environment seems to get to him, always poised, confident, and most importantly economical with his use of the ball. His new role at right back will take some adjustment, though the early signs are promising, bar a couple of errors in judgement going forward in the Community Shield, he appears to have taken the responsibilities with gusto, able to bomb forward and assist with our attacks, yet mindful of his opponent and his positioning duties not to be caught out, add on to this, truth be told, he doesn’t always get the help Park or Valencia offer when playing with Nani ahead of him. At 6’4 he is the tallest outfield player for us, so if he can manage to pose as more of an aerial threat at set pieces, two or three years from now, we could potentially be talking about Chris Smalling – World Class Centre Back.
Along with Phil “Der Kaiser” Jones, never have I actually felt confident going into any Champions League fixture without Rio Ferdinand, or Vidic for that matter, but since January 2010, Smalling has just slotted beautifully into the the United XI.
Smalling also appears to be a player intelligent enough to know that he will be required to step aside every now and then for a 100% Rio or Vida, its this intelligence in his play, and intelligence regarding his role at Manchester United that has us lowly fans sleeping soundly in our beds at night, and the thought of him and Jones as our future centre halves, well, all I can say is “You’re welcome Mr Capello”.