Manchester United’s season still has some way to go, with the Europa League kicking off again early next month. Yet talk has already turned to who they might sign this summer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to strengthen considerably ahead of their Champions League campaign. But one player returning from a loan spell may be hoping to prove a point of his own.
Chris Smalling divided opinion during his time in United’s starting XI. But, at his best, there is no doubting his defensive ability.
The 30-year-old has spent this season on loan at Roma and has excelled.
If United are prepared to sell Smalling, there will be no shortage of suitors. But they would be wise to give him another chance in a red shirt.
When Smalling headed out on loan, many United fans said the same thing: What about Phil Jones?
The simple fact is, if United wanted to temporrily part company with a centre-back, Smalling should have been third in line, behind the much-maligned Jones and Marcos Rojo.
Instead Jones stuck around while Smalling rediscovered his best form in Serie A. This summer, the former will surely be sold. But what about the latter?
Quality defensive partner
Smalling’s centre-back partners at Old Trafford have not always helped him play his best.
Jones has never fulfilled his potential and has made too many mistakes for many United fans to forgive. Daley Blind was a class act but not the dominant defender some supporters were crying out for. While Marcos Rojo has struggled more often than not.
Victor Lindelof took time to settle at United while Eric Bailly was in and out of the starting line-up due to injury. In short, Smalling has rarely had a consistent and natural centre-back as his regular partner.
That would change if he returned. After all, Harry Maguire has not missed a second of United’s league campaign and, next to Smalling, the skipper could shine.
Lindelof has also blossomed into a consistent performer and would be a far better option alongside Smalling these days.
Despite spending big on Maguire last summer, ESPN claims United remain keen on Kalidou Koulibaly and Nathan Ake this time round.
Both would be fine additions to Solskjaer’s squad but a returning Smalling would save the club tens of millions.
With money likely to be tight, and a significant sum needed to secure more pressing reinforcements further forward, keeping Smalling makes sense.
At 30, the England international has seen it all and would return to United with the bit between his teeth.
He already has 323 appearances for the Red Devils and he would settle back in instantly.
He could also offer a mentoring role to Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi as the young pair bid to break through.
United will play plenty of football next season and would only be a serious injury away from defensive issues. So having Smalling back in their ranks is surely a no-brainer.
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