Manchester United supporters have been somewhat happier in recent times after seeing their team return to winning ways in the Premier League just prior to the current two-week break for internationals.
Jose Mourinho’s men went into their most recent league clash with Burnley off the back of suffering a heavy 3-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham, a result which brought the Portuguese’s position as manager into sharp focus. Yet the Red Devils responded admirably at Turf Moor last time out as a brace from Romelu Lukaku secured a routine 2-0 success over Sean Dyche’s men, thus moving United up to tenth place in the Premier League table.
As such, there have been some happier and more upbeat Red Devils fans up and down the country in recent times, although two men who are unlikely to be overly thrilled at present are defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.
Not only has manager Mourinho made it clear that he wanted centre backs during the summer, thus suggesting that he doesn’t fancy the England duo, but the pair failed to make Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad for this fortnight’s international break.
And while that maybe it wasn’t a huge shock that Smalling missed out, having not featured for his country since October 2017, it was somewhat of a surprise that 26-year-old Jones failed to make the cut having done so at the World Cup, although a hamstring problem may have been a reason for the snub.
Clearly though, given the unhappiness of Mourinho with their efforts at United alongside their recent England snub, the centre back duo have seriously got to buck their ideas up if they are to make the grade for both club and country.
Ultimately, 28-year-old Smalling hasn’t really been in the England reckoning since that last cap against Lithuania almost a year ago, with manager Southgate explicitly referencing the defender’s uncertainty with the ball at his feet as a reason why he is unlikely to feature.
Yet stellar efforts at the heart of the United backline would have surely given Southgate some food for thought heading into the season’s first international break, but the former Fulham man simply hasn’t been able to produce the goods, with his horror show against Spurs a few weeks ago underlining Mourinho’s doubts surrounding him and his other centre back options.
Yet at the age of 28, there is still plenty of time for Smalling to win over both Mourinho and indeed Southgate and thus play a part for both club and country in the future, but he has to buck up his ideas and start producing the goods for United when called upon – the fact they didn’t sign a centre back means Smalling is likely to feature regularly this term, which are chances he has to take.
As aforementioned, while Smalling’s England omission wasn’t a huge shock, it was somewhat surprising to see 26-year-old Jones miss out what with the defender making Southgate’s 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia, although a hamstring problem may well have played a part.
Nonetheless, with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez now back in the fold following injury issues of his own, there is plenty of work for ex-Blackburn Rovers man Jones to do to get back into England reckoning – but his start to the season suggests that he has a way to go.
Like Smalling, Jones endured a torrid evening against Tottenham on August 27 to call into question his capabilities, while the fact that he wasn’t even named in the matchday squad for their opening two Premier League games says a lot about the trust Mourinho has in the 26-year-old.
Clearly, the United duo have got a lot of work to do to not only make the grade at international level, but also at club level, as Mourinho’s desire for defenders during the summer alongside the recent snub from England boss Southgate leaves messrs Jones and Smalling facing an uncertain time – ultimately, they seriously need to buck their ideas up.
Man United fans… what do you think? Let us know!
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