It’s about time Chris Smalling got some overdue praise.
Smalling has been terrific since returning to the Manchester United starting line up in early February.
In the four games Smalling has played in since coming back from injury, United have conceded just one goal.
This was in midweek against Palace, a 3-1 victory for United.
Prior to this, he helped keep clean sheets away at Fulham, away at Chelsea, and at home to Liverpool.
He is emerging as the best partner for Victor Lindelöf, who also deserves credit for United’s strong defensive record.
1,800 fans responded, with 74 per cent selecting Eric Bailly, 14 per cent Phil Jones, and Smalling amassing just 12 per cent.
Bailly did not cover himself in glory in the 2-0 defeat, and it is more likely Smalling will keep his place.
Bouncing backSmalling has been written off at United numerous times, and has often taken flak for errors made by Phil Jones, with the pair seen as part of United’s defensive problems.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaching staff have improved the pair of them.
Smalling looks leaner and fitter than ever, and showed real aggression with his tackling against Liverpool.
He almost won the game too, missing a late opportunity, and set up an offside goal.
There were groans from fans when Smalling extended his contract earlier this season. Right now it looks like a good decision.
The futureSmalling does look like Lindelöf’s best partner suddenly right now, but that could easily change.
The centre-back is 29, and United need to look to the future.
Smalling’s form along with the rest of the defence has shown United do not need both, just one. It previously appeared a complete overhaul was necessary.
Add one centre-back, spend money on attacking options, and a central midfielder, and United are looking good for next season.