Since arriving at United in the Summer Chris Smalling has surprised even the harshest of critics with how well he’s settled into the squad.
The level of performance the Fulham player has produced means that even the loss of Rio Ferdinand for several weeks hasn’t been the body blow it was for the Reds last season.
Too often the media get carried away with players who produce a few good performances, labelling them ‘world class’ just because they manage to man-mark Andy Johnson for 45 mins, or play a few neat passes against the mighty Wigan. Men such as Joleon Lescott, Matthew Upson and Martin Skrtel have been classed as world-beaters due to a few above average games.
Watching Smallling, though it’s obvious he’s a class above any of the aforementioned trio, in fact he’s a cut above the majority of central defenders in the Premier League. The fact he was playing non-league football less than three years ago only makes Smalling’s ascendency all the more inspirational.
In the games against Marseille away and Manchester City, Smalling proved he’s more than capable of filling Rio Ferdinand’s shoes while the former England captain recovers from yet another injury. Although he’s not perfect and is obviously far from the finished article, Smalling has got the United faithful buzzing, almost to the same level a certain Mexican hitman has who also recently arrived.
It seems there is one area though, where Smalling needs to improve, if a report in the Manchester Evening News is anything to go by. According to the M.E.N in a recent interview Smalling confessed:
“The coaching staff want me to start expressing myself a bit more,
“They think I am a bit quiet on the pitch. But it is starting to come. With more games I am sure that confidence will come across.
“At set-pieces in particular you have to be a figurehead when you are in central defence.
“You have to dictate and make sure people are marking. I have to make sure that comes across.”
Smalling also stressed the importance of having someone with experience alongside him.
“I have not really faced these kind of strikers before, so having someone around to help has made it a lot easier. It gives you the confidence to cope.”
One thing that’s always missing somewhat when Rio’s out is a real organiser in the heart of the defence. If Smalling could add that to his already excellent game, then he could be replacing the former England captain a lot sooner than we think and turning a good season into a great one.