Some Manchester United fans believe Chris Smalling should still be at the club. The Red Devils’ defensive issues are well documented and the jury remains out on Victor Lindelof.
If Eric Bailly could stay fit, the Ivorian would be one of the first names on the team-sheet. Instead, United too often look weak at the back with Harry Maguire and Lindelof yet to form a consistently formidable partnership.
Smalling spent last season on loan at Roma and impressed throughout. As a result, the former England international returned permanently in October. So how has the 31-year-old fared this time round?
In truth, things have not quite gone to plan for the former United centre-back. Last season he racked up 30 Serie A appearances and 37 in all competitions.
With three goals and two assists, Smalling proved effective at both ends of the pitch. Yet this time round, his progress has faltered.
A series of minor injuries mean Smalling has managed just 15 appearances (12 in the league) since heading back to Rome.
His new team have suffered without him, losing 4-0 to Napoli and 2-0 to Juventus in his absence. That is not to say Roma have had everything their way when he has played, but he will have been hoping for more since his £18.1million move (BBC).
Yet to spark this season
Smalling has also been less effective in attack this campaign, yet to score and providing a single assist to date.
Had United been more solid at the back, they could still be sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League. Defensive lapses continue to haunt them, with teams seemingly destined for relegation blotting their previously impressive copybook.
Smalling could yet come back to haunt his former employers this season. Roma and United remain in the Europa League and could face each other further down the road.
That would be a tantalising prospect for Smalling, who should rightly feel aggrieved at being pushed out at United when Phil Jones remains and Lindelof flatters to deceive.