After making himself a scapegoat with a red card in the Manchester derby three weeks ago, Chris Smalling had to put in a positive and experienced performance playing alongside two youngsters in Tyler Blackett and Patrick McNair at the Emirates.
The England international did just that, putting in a performance that mirrored that of the one against Chelsea last month. He blocked several shots, got himself on the end of several crosses and made one vital tackle as ex-red Danny Welbeck ran in on goal.
It was the type of performance that makes Manchester United supporters wonder why Smalling can’t play that way on a regular basis or even more so that he could perform like that if he could overcome injury issues that have plagued every first team defender at some point this season.
Despite being wildly unpopular among the United faithful after costing his team a chance of winning the Manchester derby, fans rightly praised the defender after his performance against the Gunners.
Smalling and Young played well. Not everyday you get to use that sentence.
— Howellsey (@RalphieMilne) November 22, 2014
I still can't stand the bloke but Smalling was brilliant today.
— Stuart McGuire (@uggy7) November 22, 2014
Excellent defending by Smalling. Obviously everyone will ignore it because of 1 stupid mistake in the City game
— Marcel Siferlinger (@MaSi_Red) November 22, 2014
— LeeCowen (Granville) (@FFScout_Granny) November 22, 2014
— Man Utd Update (@MufcDevilUpdate) November 22, 2014
If Louis van Gaal can sort United’s crippling defensive issues as soon as possible then supporters have every reason to be optimistic about the rest of the campaign, especially if players such as Smalling can continue to put in performances like today on a regular basis.