Chris Smalling's 'extraordinary performance' praised as ex-United defender helps Jose Mourinho's Roma reach European final
Former Manchester United defender Chris Smalling starred as Jose Mourinho’s Roma reached the Europa Conference League final.
Roma beat Leicester City 1-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate thanks to a header from Tammy Abraham, to set up a final against Feyenoord.
Mourinho’s former Manchester United defender Chris Smalling played a key role in keeping a clean sheet. This was the biggest moment for him since his £13.6 million departure from the Red Devils in 2020.
This is the third time Smalling has reached a European final. He was an unused substitute in the Champions League final in 2011, and started as United beat Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League final in 2017.
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Jose Mourinho’s Roma reach final
It is yet another European final for Jose Mourinho. It may ‘only’ be the Europa Conference League, but this was the competition available to him. It is Roma’s first European final since 1991.
Mourinho is looking to win his first trophy since the 2017 Europa League with United. He has won the Champions League with Inter Milan in 2010 and Porto in 2004.
Tuttomercatoweb praised the manager, writing: “In a “normal” season he pulls the usual rabbit out of the hat. He is the leader of a people, not just the manager of a team.”
Smalling played all 90 minutes as Roma won, making five clearances, two interceptions and one block, while winning seven out of seven aerial duels, to ensure Jamie Vardy never got a look it.
Tuttomercatoweb picked out Smalling as the star man, hailing him as ‘the conductor of the Roma defence’, and praised his ‘extraordinary performance’.
No Manchester United fan will begrudge Smalling his success. The 32-year-old played 323 times for the Red Devils, and has featured 32 times for Roma this season so far.
Mourinho and Smalling’s Roma have conceded only 40 goals in 35 Serie A matches this season. Meanwhile Manchester United have conceded 52 goals in 36 games this season.
Would United really be worse off if Smalling had stayed, and £80 million not been spent on Harry Maguire?
Smalling will be doing his best to roll back the clock to 2017 with Mourinho later this month. We wish them the best of luck.