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
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?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.