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Will we really miss Rio?

Sid Friday, March 18, 2011


As news that Rio might be injured for the rest of the season reached me, my first thought was "Thank god we have Smalling!" This got me wondering, has Smalling really made such a big impact that the loss Rio doesn’t get me worried anymore?!

Well, Smalling’s rise to first team has been phenomenal, at the start of the season I doubt anyone thought he’d be playing so many games, let alone being touted as Rio’s replacement already! To be honest, when I saw him at Fulham, I thought we had just wasted cash on an inexperienced CB, who seemed to make at least one mistake every game! Even on debut during the pre-season against Celtic, he was responsible for conceding the penalty. He went on prove me wrong! Very Very Wrong!!

Almost 8 months down the line, Smalling has cemented his position as one of England’s rising stars, and his similarity to Rio is uncanny!! Both players are of the same height, good in the air, and very comfortable with the ball at their feet, also can pick out a good pass from defense! Smalling’s inexperience might be his biggest weakness, but at the rate at which he’s going, I doubt he’ll be called inexperienced for much longer!

So far this season, Smalling has made an incredible 25 appearances for us, 7 as a sub, in all competitions! Including 6 starts in the Champions League, a lot for someone so young! The number of games Smalling has played has also been down to Jonny Evan’s poor form and Rio’s injury troubles. But each time Smalling has risen to the occasion and stood out, even outshining Rio when played together!!

So will we miss Rio? The answer is a simple Yes! No matter how well Smalling is performing, he cannot make up for Rio’s experience, something that is vital in the final stages of the season especially! Smalling has also been vulnerable when not playing alongside Rio or Vida, their help and advice clearly makes the difference to his performance too!

At the same time, I’m relieved that we don’t have to throw Jonny Evan’s into the deep-end, especially when he’s clearly lacking confidence and is as good as Scholesy in the air! Having Smalling around now is clearly a huge bonus, and luckily the present injury crisis isn’t as bad as it was last season, when we had to play Carrick, De Laet and Flectcher in defense!

So I think the answer to my initial question is, though Smalling has made a huge impact, it’ll be a long time before he can actually replace Rio. Rio’s experience and leadership on the pitch is something we’ll sorely miss and i hope that he can be back in time for the last month of the season at least if not earlier! Smalling has done brilliantly this season, easily the best young English defender in the league, and he’s getting better with every game. There’s no doubt in my mind that Smalling will eventually become the first choice center back for both England and United!!

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