By 90Min
October 25, 2019

Towards the end of last season, Chris Smalling was thoroughly ridiculed for his role in Manchester United's decline.

The Englishman was torn apart by fans, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer obviously wasn't much of a fan either. The boss decided to spend £80m on Harry Maguire and ship Smalling out to Roma on loan.

Giampiero Sposito/GettyImages

Here we are, nearly at the end of 2019, and Smalling is looking like a star in Rome, while Maguire and co. look like fools. How have United allowed that to happen?

With Maguire and Victor Lindelöf joining forces at the back, United have found themselves considerably closer to a relegation battle than to a fight for the top four. Their attack has been bitterly disappointing, but the aforementioned defensive partnership - which cost a combined £116m - has hardly looked much better.

Two clean sheets in the Premier League is simply not good enough, but enough about that. Much has been said about United's current problems, but ideas about how to rectify them have not been as common.

They could turn to the transfer market to find one of the top performers in Europe, but their scouts' data would only highlight Smalling. The 29-year-old has been firing on all cylinders with Roma, dominating opponents and bringing some much-needed stability to Paulo Fonseca's defence.

He has had the impact in Rome which Maguire was supposed to have in Manchester. Quite simply, United need someone like Smalling.

Wait, it's almost 2020 - do Manchester United need Chris Smalling? Surely not.

Don't get it twisted, Smalling was nowhere near good enough for United in the past few seasons. He made far too many mistakes, he was caught out of position with alarming regularity and he played a part in plenty of United's poor defensive performances. He will almost certainly not be coming back.

The Red Devils have moved on. Understandably, they grew tired of Smalling's poor form, and now Maguire and Lindelöf look set to be United's preferred partnership for the future. Smalling had his chance.

OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

However, there must be a few frustrated (and confused) officials at Old Trafford who have watched Smalling outperform both their centre-back stars so far this year. 

It almost seems like the very real threat of being discarded permanently has lit a fire under Smalling, who is taking his chance to prove that he actually is good enough to bring something to a top side.

This does not look like the Smalling which fans had grown to dislike, but rather one with something to offer once more.

With Roma planning to make his stay permanent, Smalling looks to be nearing the exit door at Old Trafford. If he can maintain this current level, there will probably be plenty of other interested sides as well, but United should at least consider trying to keep him around.

For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

You May Like