Alan Hansen has claimed that Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have lost their way at Manchester United and in doing so have ‘denied’ England the opportunity of a club-based partnership for the next ten years in his latest column for The Telegraph.
“They have not developed, so have denied England the opportunity of a club-based partnership for the next ten years, while beyond those two, it really is thin pickings.”
When they play alongside each other, Jones and Smalling have looked fantastic at times. Their partnership blossomed during the 2011 European Under-21 Championships where they showed an almost telepathic connection together – one would sit while the other brought the ball out without thinking, the perfect defensive blend.
Unfortunately for them, at United they have only played together at centre back a handful of times, so for Hansen to say they denied England a partnership at this early stage is ridiculous.
They have always had to deal with the policy of rotation with United and have been given their opportunities at times but with Nemanja Vidic still high in David Moyes’ estimations and Jonny Evans vying for game time too, the pair have found it hard to get the chance to play alongside each other this year.
As well as rotation, both have had real injury troubles. Smalling showed fine progression in his first two years at United but that was curtailed in 2012/13 with a series of injuries and he has only recently worked his way back to full fitness.
Jones has suffered injury troubles of his own in both his debut campaign and last year as well. As a consequence, Smalling and Jones have rarely been fit to play alongside each other.
The pair are two of the most promising defenders in the country and have every chance of becoming United and England’s centre-back pairing for the next ten years, even if Hansen’s rant would tell you otherwise.
They have made fantastic progression in their careers so far and are both still kids, although that certainly means they have no chance of winning.
Far more incredulous than Hansen’s comments is LiverpoolKop’s analysis of it, where the author boldly claims that ‘if United plan to build their future on those two [Jones and Smalling] then they can expect obscurity for a few years yet’.
I think I’ll trust Sir Alex Ferguson’s judgement rather than a Scouser who would also rather have Jordan “£20m man” Henderson in his midfield than Tom Cleverley – not that I consider Cleverley a world beater but nobody in their right mind would make a conscious decision to have Henderson in their team.
Even more fun is to be had in the comments section where a Liverpool fan compares Sturridge to Cantona, United’s class of ’92 to Liverpool’s current crop and our midfield general Bobby Robson to Steven Gerrard. Not sure where to start on that one.