From all indications, United boss Jose Mourinho is looking towards a returning Chris Smalling as the best replacement for Eric Bailly when he leaves for the African Cup of Nations come next January.
Since Manchester United’s 4-0 loss to Chelsea some weeks ago, the Portuguese coach has not featured Smalling. And in Smalling’s continued absence, the boss made the duo of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo to form a partnership at the heart of the defence.
With Bailly representing his country at next year’s African Cup of Nations in January, the red devils manager need to look for a player to step in to replace him, and it seems Smalling will emerged Mourinho’s man.
Speaking on this issue, Mourinho said:
“Let’s hope Smalling can recover in time to replace him in the squad because, with so many matches, we need players. At the moment, we have Phil Jones, Bailly and Marcos Rojo [as centre-backs]. We play Tottenham, West Brom and Reading, West Ham away [among others] – in that period we have a lot of matches and it is important to have players.”
Last year before Mourinho’s arrival, Smalling was referred to by some as the best defender at Man United. But under new coach Mourinho, it is agreed that he dropped form. But we believed that if he can strive picking up his outstanding form, then he will be an outstanding replacement for Bailly. And perhaps, both Smalling and Bailly would end up being United’s first choice partnership eventually.
Though it is being debated if Mourinho really likes Smalling or not, particularly putting in view his public criticism aimed towards him, the fact that the team’s defence needs improvement should tell us the boss would be turning to Smalling come January.