Chris Smalling determined to keep his starting place under Jose Mourinho

by Leo Nieboer

Chris Smalling has expressed his desire to bounce back quickly from Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat to Feyenoord in the Europa League and retain his place in the starting XI ahead of the clash with Watford on Sunday.

A 71 minute strike from Tonny Vilhena condemned Jose Mourinho’s side to defeat in their first Europa League game of the season.

Smalling, unable to break apart the indomitable partnership of Eric Bailly and Daley Blind so far this season, finally received a chance to feature under Jose Mourinho against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side.

Speaking after the game, the Englishman expressed his desire to retain his spot in the side and lead a resurgence against Watford on Sunday.

“We don’t have time to dwell on the defeat and we have a few days to recover now,” he said.

“We need to stand up and be counted on Sunday. We’ve got to show a lot of character because it’s unacceptable to go and lose three games in a row.”

Entering the fray for the first time this season, Smalling produced a characteristically imposing performance, hallmarked my muscle and stature. That said, there were occasions – Vilhena’s goal being one – where, positionally, the 26-year-old looked unsettled.

And with Bailly and Blind growing in stature and chemistry, unnecessarily breaking apart such a special partnership would be, above anything, counter-productive.

Something worth keeping an eye out for, though, is Bailly’s readiness for such a quick turnaround of fixtures. The Ivorian picked up what looked like a dead leg – or at least a severe blow – in the first-half, and it could mean that Smalling takes his place at Vicarage Road.

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