Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has said young defender Patrick McNair won’t be the last to suffer the indignity of being substituted early on in a game this season.
The situation wasn’t helped when Smalling himself was subbed due to injury and McNair featured alongside the returning Jonny Evans for the first time.
United haven’t had a settled defence at any point this season and the early switch wouldn’t have helped settle McNair’s nerves as further indecisiveness appeared to creep into his game.
But in his Friday press conference, van Gaal reassured McNair that wouldn’t be the last to face a similar issue this season.
“He is not the first and he won’t be the last,” said the manager.
Given van Gaal subbed his first choice goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen in a World Cup quarter-final in the 120th minute so Tim Krul could play his first minutes of the tournament in a crucial penalty shoot-out, the boss will probably stay completely true to his words.
Both moves were characteristics of a manager assured of his own confidence and ability and what is best for the team, something United supporters didn’t see in former manager David Moyes.
Also, Van Gaal’s calm approach to the McNair substitution and how he has dealt with the situation is indicative of his past as a PE teacher. You get the impression that behind the scenes Van Gaal is a completely different person.