Chris Smalling's Manchester United career is at a crossroads as contract talks loom

As Chris Smalling turns 29 today, it is perhaps the correct time to reflect that there aren’t too many players who sum up the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era at Manchester United quite like him.
Pretty much everybody knows that the former Fulham man is not good enough for a United side which is as good as they want to be; but the depressing reality is that he has repeatedly been deemed adequate for where they are.
Gareth Southgate has transformed his England defence by turning to younger players with higher potential than Smalling, but David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and now Jose Mourinho have all kept him around; deeming that he is perhaps the best of an average bunch of central defensive options.

Smalling’s contract situation

(Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)

Smalling is one of a host of United players who have less than a year left on their current contract and the Daily Mail report that talks over an extension have begun.
At the age of 29, and demanding an extended deal and a reported pay rise, Smalling’s United career is surely at a crossroads.

They can either commit to Smalling and offer him the money he wants or try their best to finally shed him and move forward with central defenders with greater potential.

What should United do?

(Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Most fans would surely like United to ditch Smalling, even if he leaves the club for a reduced fee in January or nothing in the summer, but that would not make economic sense to Ed Woodward.
Perhaps the best course of action would be triggering the one-year extension clause in Smalling’s contract, which would preserve his value somewhat with a view to a summer move.

But Mourinho has placed Smalling at the heart of his defence and has no problem paying big money to aging players, so perhaps United will be tied to the defender for a little while longer.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.