“This is my ninth season with the club and I am delighted to be continuing my progression with this team. It is a real honour to play for Manchester United and we are all now concentrating on the busy schedule of games throughout the festive period”, said Chris Smalling midway through December 2018, just after he signed the latest contract extension with the Devils. His new deal meant he was to stay at Old Trafford until June 2022, after coming to Manchester from Fulham all the way back in 2010.
Now, after the season ended, we are here to review everything he did at Manchester United during 2018-19 season.
Appearances across all competitions
There were rumours of Smalling potentially leaving the side before the start of the last season. As one would expect, these emerged due to differences with Jose Mourinho. However, the Portuguese and then-United manager dismissed those claims quickly. Smalling has responded to that trust with some fine performances. However, across the whole season, not many fans were happy with his displays and many of them were vocally against Smalling signing a new contract.
Nevertheless, despite what some parts of Man United fandom might think, Smalling still played a big chunk of the campaign – 24 Premier League appearances, all of them starts, and eight matches in Champions League and two in the FA Cup. A total of 34 matches had seen Smalling spend over 3000 minutes on the pitch, scoring one goal in the process, in a 2-1 win over Watford back in September. The centre-back had a foot injury which had seen him sidelined during December and January. It did not make his season easy, especially as Man United played their best football during that time.
Did he perform above or below the expectations?
The answer to this question depends on what were the expectations. Jose Mourinho desperately wanted new centre-back reinforcements last summer, not believing totally to the four centre-backs he had at disposal at the time. Looking from that perspective, it would not be a stretch saying this was what we expected. Smalling’s season was a really good one, but no one really expected it to be, as we all knew his limitations.
The problem here would be that Smalling is probably best suited to be the third or fourth centre-back, but so often during the season he was starting.
Will he be a part of Manchester United during the 2019-20 season?
Yes, Chris Smalling will be a part of Manchester United during the 2019-20 season. We basically knew the answer to this question from mid-December, when Smalling signed a new contract extension. His performances from last season are not really going to bring in any offers from other clubs and Smalling will be one of the centre-backs Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to choose from. How big of a role he gets would depend on who will make the squad once the season starts, considering the rumours about Harry Maguire joining Man United.