Last season Manchester United’s torrid campaign was marred by players that were inconsistent and by injuries. There weren’t reliable and were of no real use to United when they played. Two such players were Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Both defenders were injured for most of the first part of the season. When the 2018-19 campaign started last August, the team had around 9 to 11 players that were injured. The coach at the time Jose Mourinho was trying cope with these litany of injuries. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were among the lengthy injury list. When they returned to the squad weeks later after recovering from their injuries, even when they got sufficient playing time to help them become match fit, they still couldn’t make a strong enough impact on the team.
Both centre-backs were consistently error prone in their defensive duties. Especially when it came to being focused, having sound judgement and good positioning on the field. Both players would “switch off” mentally when there was a free-kick or a corner kick. Whenever the ball came into the box they were either not in position to mark a player , or didn’t challenge the player in the air quickly enough.
When it came to having proper judgement they didn’t quickly intercept a ball or break up an attacking play from developing. When you look at some of the scenarios where they were inept, sometimes you wonder why didn’t they step up to aggressively challenge a player or close them down? An opposing player would take a shot at goal and they would score, and you would ask where were Smalling or Jones? Many of the mistakes they commit are basic errors in in defending that they make over and over again. Also when you look at their positioning in the box and outside of it both defenders have failed in that department too.
I’ve seen repeatedly on the field where opposing players would run past them while Smalling and Jones struggled to keep up with them. Then that poor positioning would lead to goals being conceded. Both defenders quality of defending overall has deteriorated considerably. When I found out that United gave them new contracts last season, I was surprised. Now I like both of them personally and think they’re good guys. But if you’re consistently failing in your duties as a defender, then you need to go.
They’re just not competent to play in the backline anymore. They should be sold to other teams who would be interested in them. Manchester United is one of the biggest, most popular and prestigious teams in the world. We have very high standards. So why should the club allow these standards to be compromised? We need better quality centre-backs that will significantly improve the team’s standard of play, not degrade it.