Chris Smalling‘s wife, Sam Cooke, has revealed that her husband’s decision to go vegan helped him avoid injury last season.
The Englishman begun the 2016/17 campaign behind Phil Jones and Eric Bailly in the pecking order but injuries to both players gave him a chance to impose himself on the starting XI.
His last injury came in December, and with others dropping like flies over the second half of the season he became a fixture in Jose Mourinho’s back four, making 46 appearances in total.
Speaking on a live stream on Instagram, Cooke noted how Smalling’s decision to become a vegan played a fundamental role in her husband’s avoidance of injury over the second half of the season.
“His energy and recovery have improved and he hasn’t had an injury since (touch wood),” he said.
Mourinho’s fixation on securing a central defender this window – at the expense of a left-back, at the expense of refining the midfield further by signing a box-to-box technician, at the expense of securing a ‘big name’ – simply stems from the fact that Smalling, of all people, was the only defender he could trust to be fit on a regular basis over his second campaign at Old Trafford.
Phil Jones is Phil Jones. Victor Lindelof was being eased in. Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo, arguably the club’s two best defenders, were injured or not fully fit for most of the season. You can understand Mourinho’s frustration at having five central defenders and only being able to count on one, and why he wants to change that this summer.
But perhaps splashing out on, say, Toby Alderweireld isn’t necessary. Perhaps all he needs to do is give Lindelof the game time he deserves and have the rest on a strict diet of legumes, nuts, tofu, chia seeds, seaweed, chickpeas, those falafels which are too dry and always break apart, and raw celery. Lots and lots of raw celery: half time celery, full time celery, celery for breakfast, celery soup for dinner, celery dipped in celery paste with celery sprinkled on top!
Such a move, you suspect, would hardly improve Mourinho’s lowly popularity in the dressing room next season.