Chris Smalling’s move from Fulham to Manchester United raised many an eye brow considering he had only played half a dozen times for Fulham. However, Chris Smalling is playing like a seasoned professional and looks now to have leapfrogged both Wes Brown and Jonny Evans in the defensive pecking order. Evans who played 35 times in the 08/09 season, looked to have established himself but a combination of Smalling’s form and his own dip in form has opend up the covering position once again.
What has happened to Jonny Evans though? Over the past two seasons, Evans has looked assured in defence and looked the man to replace Rio Ferdinand when he hangs up his boots. This season a catalogue of errors from the Northern Irishman has shown that theory up, and it seems Sir Alex Ferguson is looking elsewhere – Chris Smalling.
Jonny Evans does not seem the player to rest on his laurels, but could it be that he has found life at Old Trafford too comfortable. Over the past two seasons he has been the man to step in, expectations of course are high but not impossible to handle. As a covering centre half, much of the responsibility was with either Ferdinand or Vidic. This season, Evans is now a leader in his own right – something he hasn’t been able to handle too well.
So with Jonny Evans completely out of form and injured at the moment, this is the time for Chris Smalling to take aim at getting himself into the Manchester United side regularly. Smalling has settled into life at Old Trafford very quickly, and mirrors the rise that Evans himself had at Old Trafford. Smalling was assured in his play last night and seized his opportunity, something he will look to do over the coming weeks. Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson dropped Jonny Evans, Manchester United have kept five clean sheets in eight games, and Smalling can take a share of the accolades.
After the match last night, Chris Smalling spoke to Sky Sports and his confidence was evident.
“The likes of Rio and Vida have been brilliant,” said Smalling.
“They help guide you through games and I am learning from them all the time.
“They deserve credit too. They have really helped me to settle in and my confidence is sky high at the moment.”
As well as this, Manchester United have been lavishing praise on the young defender. Manchester United’s captain has been highly impressed with the young Englishman.
“Chris did very well but you are not just talking about one night, he has done well over the last few games,” said the United skipper.
“He has proved the boss was right to give him his chance.”
Such glowing praise from his fellow professionals is what will inspire Chris Smalling at Old Trafford. Manchester United players will not heap praise on a player who does not deserve it, Smalling has definitely earned it. However, the hard work has only just begun for the young defender. At the expense of Jonny Evans, he looks to be the third choice centre half at Old Trafford now. Smalling is by no means a finished article and must continue to work hard, improve and most important not take his place for granted.
The situation with Jonny Evans shows the strength in depth a club like Manchester United has. Only a year ago Evans was destined for great things at Manchester United – and he still could. However if your form drops at a club like Manchester United, there is always somebody who can and will take your place. If Smalling can retain his place it will be extremely hard for Evans to get back into the Manchetser United squad. The challenge is clear for both players and that can only be a long term benefit for Manchester United.
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