Despite winning players’ player of the year at the end of season club awards, should Manchester United’s Chris Smalling be more worried than anybody that the club are supposedly on the verge of signing a new central defender?
If reports are to be believed, the Benfica president has flown to Manchester to discuss a potential £38m move for Swedish defender, Victor Lindelöf; meaning Jose Mourinho will surely be looking to offload one of his current crop.
Smalling was integral in United’s success last term – forming a formidable partnership with Dutchman, Daley Blind; and earning himself a role as back-up captain for the club, behind both Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick.
Whilst the England international received personal honours, as well as lifting the FA Cup – it seems he has fallen down the pecking order in recent weeks, mainly due to injury and the unexpected form and fitness of both Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo.
Three months ago, both Rojo and Jones would have been everybody’s first picks when choosing which of the United defenders would be most likely to move elsewhere – but a change in fortune has seen both players perform solidly in the absence of new boy Eric Bailly, who has firmly established himself as the dominant central defender at the club in the short space of time he has been there.
Since the departure of both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the jury has been out on every player who has attempted to replace them. Jonny Evans tried and failed; whereas both Jones and Smalling never really took the opportunity by the scruff of the neck – spending more time on the treatment table than on the pitch.
It’s obviously not going to be an easy job replacing the best central defensive pairing of a generation, but Smalling seemed on the verge of stepping up last year; adding much needed aggression, decision making and leadership to the pace and power which was always in his locker.
Should Mourinho complete the signing of Lindelöf, it has to be assumed he will drafted in alongside Bailly, the minute Rojo and Jones begin to tail off.
With Daley Blind having versatility on his side – and talented young defenders in Tim Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe also waiting in the shadows for an opportunity, it currently looks like the former Maidstone and Fulham man might be the fall guy come January, despite being un-droppable only six months ago.