Chris Smalling is facing an uncertain future at Manchester United after the club signed Victor Lindelof from Benfica. The Independent report that the England international will be allowed to leave Old Trafford after slipping down the pecking order. Jose Mourinho has yet to explicitly tell the defender if he will be part of his plans, but it is expected that he will be one of the players to depart United this summer. If that is the case, there will be a lot of Premier League interest in the 27-year-old, with Everton, Newcastle United and West Ham United all possible destinations.
Last season was mixed for Smalling, as he suffered with injuries and was even called out by Jose Mourinho for what his manager considered a mentality issue. It wasn’t the best campaign for the England international and it isn’t surprising that he has fallen out of favour at Old Trafford. His average of 1.61 ball recoveries and 9.32 clearances per ninety minutes show a lot about his style. He was no-nonsense at the back and showed impressive reading of the game. Aerially, he won 68.57% of his duels and that is a decent ratio for a centre-back.
The England international is never likely to stand out defensively and rarely delivers a masterclass, but he is a tidy player and would represent a tidy pick up for the majority of Premier League clubs. His pass completion during the last campaign was 88% and that shows that he is comfortable with the ball at his feet. That said, he opts for simple passes and that may be one of the reasons he is being moved out of Old Trafford, as Victor Lindelof is a more effective player in possession with his range of passing.
As mentioned earlier, Mourinho criticised Smalling and Phil Jones for their overly cautious approach and suggested that they were unprofessional not to play through the pain. It is rare for a manager to criticise one of his players, especially for a mentality issue. This marked the beginning of the end for Smalling at United as this would have damaged his relationship with Mourinho.
What club would suit him if he was to leave Manchester United?
During his time at Manchester United, Smalling has been consistent and tidy, but he has never stood out as a top tier centre-back. A move down the league may benefit him and give him the platform to thrive. Jonny Evans has been excellent since he moved to West Brom and a similar move will do the world of good for Smalling. Although it will be seen as a step down, it will provide him with the opportunity to play regular first team football, which will help him secure a starting spot for England ahead of the World Cup.
Everton would be a good move for the centre-back as he could form an excellent partnership with Ashley Williams. However, it could be Newcastle that represent the best move for his own career. The Magpies may be a promoted club, but they are seen as one of the biggest outside of the top six and they have an excellent manager in Rafa Benitez. He is a good defensive coach and he would help Smalling a lot. West Ham would be the worst move of the lot, as they are a team in transition, while Slaven Bilic isn’t known for his defensive coaching.