Monday, 14 February 2011
Smalling has big future
When Rio Ferdinand was ruled out of the Manchester Derby on Saturday I felt, as did many onlookers, that it was a big blow to United's chances.
Ferdinand has been far from spectacular this season but he brings authority and assertion to the back four that gives his teammates that extra bit of confidence, knowing they have an experienced, strong and assured England centre-back behind them.
Despite often being injured and many describing him as past his best, I still believe that Ferdinand has a crucial role to play in United's title charge and he would be a big miss in Saturday's vital game. But, instead, a new star was found in the form of Chris Smalling.
When he was bought from Fulham for £5million, many were taken by surprise and questioned the move, me included. Will we ever learn?
Now it looks to be another bit of genius from Sir Alex. In my opinion, Smalling was man of the match against City, he displayed such maturity and assurance at the back, like he had been playing there for years.
His most impressive attribute was his ability to read the game and anticipate the play, a valuable skill for a defender to have. Tevez never had the chance to get the ball in space with Smalling always kept tight to the Argentinian, refusing to give him any time on the ball.
There was one tackle in particular that I recall, which showed his ability. Having already won the ball in the air, he was quick out to Kolarov, who was 30 yards out and threatening when Smalling charged in and took the ball and man in a crunching tackle, saving his side from the danger.
Smalling also showcased a tremendous passing ability, often switching the play out wide to Giggs or Nani with a precise pass, setting up several moves. He showed the calmness and assurance you need to be a top class defender and there's every chance he'll be a regular for club and country for years to come.