Manchester United fans were far from impressed with Chris Smalling‘s display during their side’s 3-1 win over Middlesbrough in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Englishman, deployed in a back three one again, prompted concerns early on with a number of uncontrolled clearances – a sign of fatigue following his outing against FC Rostov just three days earlier.
He managed to compose himself as the game went on but plunged his side, 2-0 up at the time, into a nervous frenzy with 12 minutes remaining following an inexplicably poor piece of play that gave Rudy Gestede a chance to power home and set up an awkward finish.
Man United fans were quick to criticise the 27-year-old for another unsure display at the back.
No idea how Van Gaal made Smalling look good last season.
— James Stretford (@Jamesstretford) March 19, 2017
Smalling should never wear our shirt again. Horrifically bad
— Nicholas Sutcliffe (@N8Sutcliffe) March 19, 2017
Chris Smalling used to be Man United’s best centre back. Bloody hell. Shambolic.
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) March 19, 2017
Get out of my club smalling .
Get out im fed up
— kenna (@kennagq) March 19, 2017
Chris Smalling as a footballer in 5 seconds. pic.twitter.com/qxLFrG5EWR
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) March 19, 2017
Smalling is so gone in the summer. #liability
— SK (@SharjeelK) March 19, 2017
Smalling has been so poor under Mourinho!
— Ian Varley (@IanVarley9) March 19, 2017
There were a number of things that contributed to Smalling’s chagrin at the Riverside: firstly, and indeed most visibly, his energy levels following two 90 minute stints during the week were notably low. Everything he did was tainted with a streak of lethargy, and it almost cost United three points.
Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly, there were further signs of dysfunction between himself and Phil Jones – a malaise that has reared its ugly head for a number of years now. Playing in a back three is not something that comes naturally to Smalling, known mainly for his no-nonsense, traditional style of defending. He will thank the footballing gods that, this time around, it didn’t cost United any points.