Chris Smalling once again put in another strong performance in defence for Manchester United as he continues to impress since returning from suspension.
Up against a Stoke side who posed far more attacking threat than Hull did at the weekend, Smalling never looked uncomfortable and he formed a great partnership with Marcos Rojo for the second game running.
Smalling’s stats for the game of 91% passing accuracy and 102 touches (more than any other United player) were indicative of how accomplished a performance it was from a player who will still feel the eyes of fans burning on the back of his neck after his red card against Manchester City.
We’ll hold our hands up and say we didn’t expect this sort of response from Smalling and it has certainly shown his mental strength to recover so quickly from such a high profile incident.
Louis van Gaal would have no doubt been impressed with his response as well and for the first time this season, United look to have found a partnership that works well together at the back in Rojo and Smalling.
Knowing United’s luck this season, either Rojo or Smalling will get injured in training this week but if they are both fit to play Southampton, United could play the same central defensive pairing for three games in a row which is unheralded under Van Gaal.