There is always a level of expectation for a new signing. Chris Smalling is no exception. The 20-year-old center back made his debut last night against Celtic, much to the excitement of myself and many other fans. The Daily Mail dubbed it “a debut to forget” and have now followed up with a story of Sir Alex defending Smalling after “debut clanger.”
As I said, there is always a certain amount of expectation for a new signing’s first match. That expectation is even greater when you join a club the size of Manchester United. We shouldn’t forget that Smalling is only 20 years old and doesn’t have much experience in top-flight football. Only two years ago he was playing at non-league side Maidstone United, and has since only made 13 appearances for Fulham.
I think The Daily Mail was a bit to harsh on Smalling’s performance last night. Aside from conceding a penalty, I thought Smalling looked pretty solid. Sure he’s not Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic, but did we really expect him to be at this stage? For a young center back, I thought he looked very promising.
Let’s also not forget this is preseason. He’s hardly at top form right now. If he’s going to make mistakes, this is certainly time to do it. Conceding the penalty was a very clumsy and unnecessary mistake, but even Vidic, one of the best center backs in the world, has been prone to making the same mistake on occasion. I have no doubt that these little mistakes will be eliminated as he mature’s under the watchful eye of United’s coaching staff.
Last night actually gave us a very nice glimpse of what could be the future back four of Manchester United. Rio, Vidic, and Evra won’t be around forever. Rafael has already started to assert himself at the right back position. Five years from now he may very well be joined at the back by Smalling, Evans, and Fabio. If last night’s back four was any indication for the future of this club, then I am certainly thrilled for what is to come.
All-in-all, it was a decent debut for Smalling and I’m looking forward to seeing him continue in the preseason. I think I speak for the majority of United fans when I say this: Chris Smalling, welcome to Manchester United!
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