Here at Stretford End it’s time to review how each Manchester United player fared during the 2018-19 season. Over the course of the season, some players performed better than others. But undoubtedly, a few were more consistent. And it’s time to take a look at an individual analysis for each and every single player that saw regular (or semi-regular) action within the first team during the current term.
We began the series taking a look at David De Gea and we also checked on Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones. We also looked at Marcos Rojo, Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial. Now it’s time to analyse another centre-back in Chris Smalling.
What do the numbers say?
The best way to qualify Smalling’s season was the fact that it was an up-and-down campaign for the former Fulham star. Smalling had some mixed performances throughout the campaign. However, most of the time he ended playing as a starter and, even though many believe he will never be good enough to play as a regular centre-back for Manchester United, he ended featuring at an acceptable level on most games.
The numbers do not like. Smalling registered 29 Premier League appearances, and 28 of those were as a starter. He also started all eight Champions League matches, five FA Cup contests, and played in three Carabao Cup games (two as a starter). Summing up, Smalling logged in 45 appearances across all competitions, with four goals and four yellow cards (all of them in the Premier League).
Was he an important player for the club?
Perhaps “important” might not be the best way to describe Smalling’s influence on the team… but we can safely say he was the team’s most consistent centre-back on the squad. Given Marcos Rojo’s and Eric Bailly’s injury problems, and the fact that Victor Lindelof was not up to the standards required in his debut season, then Smalling was often the most reliable defender for Jose Mourinho. The numbers backed that up. Perhaps that’s why his absence from the England World Cup squad was so surprising. The 28-year-old had enough merits to be among Gareth Southgate’s 23-men squad.
Projection for the 2018-19 season
The projection of Smalling should be quite similar to the ones of Jones and Rojo, as there is not a lot of clarity regarding his future. He has been tipped to leave the club in the coming months, but it’s hard to see him leaving the side considering this was the first season where he showed consistency during the entire campaign.
Expect him to remain as part of the first-team squad ahead of the 2018-19 season. His role will become clearer in case there are potential new arrivals, though. But it’s safe to say that Smalling will continue playing for Manchester United. At least for the foreseeable future.