Manchester United’s back-line was on the receiving end of some heavy criticism following their latest 3-3 draw against Sheffield United on Sunday.
While the entire defence was more or less responsible for conceding three goals and effectively dropping two valuable Premier League points, it was English centre-back Phil Jones that bore the brunt of the criticism.
While some Red Devils’ supporters on social media asked for Jones to be axed immdiately, others questioned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to send Chris Smalling out on loan instead of the 27-year-old ex-Blackburn man.
Such doubts over the Norwegian’s decision aren’t entirely uncalled for. In fact, Smalling’s performances for AS Roma since the start of the season make those doubts seem fairly obvious.
Since his deadline day move to Rome, Smalling has been one of the most standout performers in the Serie A, with his displays catching the attention of Italian kings Juventus, too.
In his nine league appearances so far, the 30-year-old has scored 2 goals, bagged 1 assists, won 41 aerial duels, made 17 interceptions and succeeded in blocking 11 shots. Further, he has also been dribbled past only twice in the Italian top flight so far.
Not only are Smalling’s stats better than most defenders across Europe, but the centre-back has also managed to offensively outperform one Manchester United forward: Jesse Lingard.
Lingard, so far this season, has managed to bag just one assist (against Rochdale in the Carabao Cup), while having failed to score a goal entirely — unbelievable numbers for a Manchester United attacker, and not the good kind.
In retrospect, the question fans should have been asking was not whether Solskjaer loaned out the right defender, but whether he loaned out the right first-team player.