Chris Smalling was at the forefront of most Manchester United supporters’ minds after a 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in the latest instalment of the rivalry that divides a city.
The defender’s first half sending off changed the course of what had been a very even game throughout the first period and most frustrations at the end of the game were vented at the young defender.
It was a strange and disappointing performance from a man who may not be United’s most talented defender, but is regularly their most level-headed. Just last week, Smalling was praised for the calmness he brought to the side after a 1-1 draw with league leaders Chelsea but the 24-year-old showed none of the same qualities at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The naivety to pick up an unnecessary booking for blocking Joe Hart’s goal kick was the first mistake Smalling made. With nothing to gain from the stunt, it was a pointless booking to pick up and left the England international on thin ice, especially when he had another hour to complete against one of the world’s most trickiest and lethal strikers in Sergio Aguero.
Sure enough, before half-time had even come around Smalling headed for an early bath after scything down James Milner. Albeit, he’d been left hung out to dry by Antonio Valencia‘s poor positioning but a calmer head would have realised said player was on a yellow card and would ruin his team’s so far successful game plan by being sent off for a rash tackle.
Smalling cost his team and Manchester City capitalised by going at United’s defence all guns blazing in the second half, leaving Louis van Gaal‘s side with a mountain to climb.
The centre-back will now miss the Crystal Palace game next week and due to the international break has three weeks to stew over his most forgettable performance in a United shirt.