OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER’S choice to enable Chris Smalling to leave on the low-cost in 2015 was criticised by some fans.
But the Norwegian will be feeling a bit better about it now after the veteran protector’s go back to Old Trafford turned into something of a nightmare.
United have actually spent more than ₤ 140 million to bring Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly to Old Trafford in recent seasons.
However then they let Smalling move to Roma on a long-term basis for a preliminary fee of simply ₤ 13.6 million in early October.
On Thursday he was back at the Theatre of Dreams for the first time and he was the best protector on show in the opening 45 minutes.
Smalling was a regular throughout Solskjaer’s first couple of months in charge. He played in the popular 3-1 win at Paris Saint Germain which efficiently got the Norwegian the job on a full-time basis.
Once Maguire had taken part a world record deal for a protector, it was clear Smalling’s days were numbered after almost a years with United.
Solskjaer mored than happy to let him join Roma on loan last season– a hastily arranged relocation which worked out brilliantly for the previous Fulham guy.
He returned to Carrington for pre-season and while the manager enjoyed to have him in the team, Smalling did not feel he would be provided much of a possibility.
The reasonably modest charge for a player with 31 England caps recommended United did not fight too tough to encourage him to stay.
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If you want your defenders just to defend, then Smalling can do a task for you.
He showed it again with an outstanding clearing header from Marcus Rashford’s cross when Edinson Cavani was hiding.
He likewise flung himself in front of the Uruguayan to block a shot throughout first half blockage time.
And on several occasions he put his head in where it injures and picked up a whack for his difficulties.
Yet lots of supervisors these days want protectors who can play a bit too– consisting of Gareth Southgate, who has not played him for England in four years.
Which seems to be why Solskjaer chose he would rather go with his three big cash signings– along with child Axel Tuanzebe.
Those defensive qualities were severely tested in the second half as a resurgent United ran riot– hitting the Italian side for six.
Roma were severely hindered by the loss of three players to injury in the opening 45 minutes and in the end they were entirely overwhelmed.
Smalling was helpless to stem the tide– but played Aaron Wan Bissaka onside in the build up to Edinson Cavani’s 2nd objective of the night.
He then overthrew the former Napoli forward to concede a charge which Bruno Fernandes converted.
The centre-back gave United 9 excellent years of service– making more than 320 looks and scoring 18 objectives.
However this season the 31-year-old has made just 13 looks in Serie A and perhaps it was the right time for a parting of the methods after all.
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