Chris Smalling is now one of United’s longest-serving players, and one of the club’s most reliable performers too.
The powerful centre-back joined the Reds from Fulham in 2010, after previously spending time with non-league Maidstone, and immediately made an impact as he notched 33 first-team appearances in his debut season at Old Trafford.
His efforts in his maiden campaign were rewarded with a five-year contract, and Smalling has since amassed more than 250 appearances for the Reds, playing mainly at centre-back, but also at right-back when required.
After the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in 2014, Smalling helped to fill the sizeable gap in defence left by the pair, with his natural pace, strength and game-intelligence proving to be an important asset for United.
In 2015/16 he forged a formidable partnership in the heart of the Reds’ backline with Daley Blind, and his performances were lauded by fans and team-mates alike. Relishing physical battles with some of the Premier League’s more physical strikers, the defender’s bravery, positional sense and supreme fitness contributed to United’s defensive success. He often wore the armband too, and his efforts across the campaign saw him rewarded with United’s Players’ Player of the Year award.
Smalling continued to feature as stand-in skipper in 2016/17, and despite the fact injuries interrupted his season the defender still played a full part in both the EFL Cup and Europa League finals, producing a strong performance in Stockholm as he claimed his eighth major honour with the club.
The England international has also contributed some important goals in his time as a Red, one being his strike in the 4-2 home win over Manchester City in 2014/15, while he netted a brace in the 3-1 defeat of Burnley in the same season.
One eye-catching statistic from the 2016/17 campaign was that, in well over 1,000 minutes of football, he did not pick up a single booking, demonstrating that his game is about timely interceptions rather than crunching tackles.
In 2017/18 the defender represented the Reds on 46 occasions, despite the immense competition for places at United, and played the full 90 minutes in the FA Cup final. His highlight of the season was undoubtedly scoring the winner against Manchester City, completing a remarkable comeback and overturning City’s 2-0 half-time lead.
He continued to impress in his ninth campaign at Old Trafford, and would earn a new, long-term contract at United in December 2018. Unfortunately, a broken toe sustained midway through the season kept him out for two months, but he returned to the starting XI in February and was a consistent presence for the remainder of the campaign, shining in the famous win away at Paris Saint-Germain.
After not being involved in any of United’s first three fixtures of 2019/20, Smalling was allowed to leave the club on loan for the remainder of the season. He completed a temporary move to AS Roma on 30 August, making his debut for the Giallorossi in a home match against Atalanta on 25 September.