Chris Smalling: England rejection surprised me, but you don’t play for Manchester United without being a top defender

by Harry Robinson

Chris Smalling has come out fighting after being dropped from England’s squad for the Three Lions’ most recent international friendlies.

The Manchester United defender was not called up by Gareth Southgate for the squad to face Germany and Brazil at Wembley during the November international break.

Smalling has been an England regular for some years now, and Southgate explained his decision by pointing to Smalling’s poor ball-playing abilities.

“Was I surprised? Yes, I was,” Smalling admitted.

“But you don’t play for one of the biggest clubs in the world for as long as I have and probably won the most trophies bar the Champions League without being able to do everything a top defender needs to do, be it playing or defending.

“This year, as a team, we’ve got one of the best defensive records and we have done for the last few years and I’m very proud to be part of that.

“While I’m playing under Jose (Mourinho) and he’s happy and I’m playing regularly, then I’m happy with that.”

It was surprising that Southgate made his point so clear when asked why Smalling was dropped. There is some truth to what he said.

While Smalling can be an excellent defender, his ability to pass the ball out is woeful for a Man United and England player. He constantly looks back to David de Gea or across to whoever is playing alongside him in central defence. Even his simple passing is often off, playing it behind his teammates or to their feet rather than in front of them, slowing the game down just a little.

However, Smalling does then put in the odd incredibly good performance for United. He’s clearly got the ability, it’s just not always on show, and he has clear weaknesses to his game.

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