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Analysing Chris Smalling’s no-nonsense performance for Manchester United against Leicester City

The Boot Room

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Manchester United made light work of current Premier League champions Leicester City with a 3-0 away victory this Saturday. Three goals within seven minutes killed off the game as Henrikh Mkhitaryan netted the opener, before Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubling the away side’s lead just two minutes after, becoming the oldest player to reach 15 goals in a single Premier League season. The final nail in the coffin for the Foxes came four minutes after the restart following some great link up play between Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata, with the latter finishing off the move.

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Although it may have been attackers like Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic who shined for Jose Mourinho’s side, a defensive masterclass by Chris Smalling provided United with a strong foundation to attack from. Despite sometimes being overshadowed by his fellow defenders, the England centre-back stood out as one of the side’s key players on the day – and kept a well deserved clean sheet.

Where Smalling dominated most was in the air. Leicester were praised for their groundwork last season, stringing numerous passes together when building attacks. Nevertheless, this campaign the Foxes are low on confidence and haven’t imposed themselves on each match as did previously. They traded their fine passing for more hit-and-hope tactics, which Smalling was more than happy to clear up.

The 27-year-old made 19 clearances in 90 minutes against Leicester, 15 of which being with his head. In addition, Smalling often came up trumps in ariel duels, winning 9/10 of them. Jamie Vardy feeds mainly off balls played into feet, so it’s no surprise he struggled against the powerful figure of Smalling.

Aside from his presence in the air, Smalling didn’t have much else to deal with. So lacklustre was Leicester’s showing that he was only forced to make one tackle throughout the entire game, whilst Leicester only managed to attempt one shot on target.

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Phil Jones was regarded as the defender in form throughout January for the Red Devils, but Smalling could be set to overtake if he keeps up a strong run of form and is challenged more in the tackling department.

Featured image: All rights reserved by laurent lairys.

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Manchester United

Three Manchester United youngsters to watch out for this season

There is a breadth of young talent available to Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford.

Martyn Cooke

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Manchester United
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Manchester United have already made significant moves in the transfer market as Jose Mourinho continues to refine and remould his squad in preparation for the new campaign.

Brazilian midfielder Fred arrived in a £52 million deal from Shakhtar Donetsk last month whilst Portuguese full-back Diogo Dalot was signed from Porto for £19 million earlier in the summer. The high-profile duo have also been joined be veteran Stoke City goalkeeper Lee Grant, who has been brought in to act as experienced covered for David de Gea and Sergio Romero.

Mourinho is expected to make further additions before the start of the season but he should also consider casting a keen eye at some of the youngsters that have been making waves within the United academy over the previous two or three years.

Here are three youngsters that Manchester United supporters should keep an eye on this season.

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James Garner

Manchester United are currently blessed with an abundance of talented central midfielder players including Paul Pogba, the world’s most expensive footballer, new £52 million arrival Fred and experienced enforcer Nemanja Matic.

However, it is widely considered that James Garner will soon be listed among those prestigious names after the academy graduate made rapid progress over the previous twelve months. The 17-year-old only signed his first professional contract in May and he is set to tour with the first team during the pre-season preparations, putting him firmly on Jose Mourinho’s radar.

Garner is versatile central midfield player that is equally as adept playing in a holding position or in a more advanced role whilst he has also been utilised as a central defender during his spell in academy football. He is renowned for being a natural leader and is the current England under-17’s captain.

The midfielder was a central figure in the United youth team that won the Premier League North last season and he is being tipped to make his competitive first team debut in the coming year.

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Axel Tuanzebe

Jose Mourinho has struggled to find a reliable central defensive partnership during his spell at Manchester United due to injuries and the sporadic form of some of his senior players.

However, in Axel Tuanzebe he might have a potential solution.

The 20-year-old is renowned for his power, strength and pace and has developed a well-earned reputation as being the most talented young central defender on Manchester United’s books. His ability to read the game is reminiscent of Rio Ferdinand whilst his physical presence is similar to that of Eric Bailey.

Tuanzebe has already made a handful of first team appearances since making his debut in January 2017 as a substitute in a four-goal victory against Wigan Athletic and he spent the second half of last season on loan with Aston Villa. He played only a scattering of games at Villa Park as they club reached the Championship play-offs but will return to Old Trafford better for the experience.

Mourinho has publicly praised the central defender in the past and appears to rate him highly – he may way emerge as a regular feature of the United team if he is able to capitalise on any opportunities he is provided.

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Angel Gomes

Manchester United’s modern history is filled with legendary players that were loved by supporters because of their pace, technical ability and creativity on the ball – in Angel Gomes the club appear to have someone that fits the mould perfectly.

The 17-year-old joined United’s academy at the age of six and has been hugely impressive throughout the formative years of his career.

He became the youngest player in over a decade to make his first team debut when he was used as a substitute in May 2017 at just 16 years and 263 days old in a late-season fixture against Crystal Palace, also becoming the first player born in the 2000’s to play in the Premier League.

Gomes can play anywhere across the three attacking midfield positions with his dribbling and innovative skill highlighting him from his peers. He is a somewhat diminutive figure but has the ability to dictate the pace and flow of a game with his intelligence, vision and impressive range of passing.

Since making his first team debut the 17-year-old has not featured for Mourinho’s side in a competitive fixture but he is being widely tipped to re-emerge and feature in the forthcoming year.

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Everton

Everton should consider Luke Shaw as Kieran Tierney alternative

Everton are moving closer to signing Leighton Baines’ long-term successor.

Liam Thomas

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Luke Shaw
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Everton are on the hunt for a long-term replacement for current left back Leighton Baines and have been hotly linked with a move for Celtic’s 21-year-old star Kieran Tierney.

According to The Daily Record, Everton are edging closer to securing Tierney’s services for a £25 million fee, but there has been no deal officially done yet, and Celtic are keen to keep hold of their top prospect.

There is, however, another left back option out there whose talent is undeniable and is an option Marco Silva and the Everton hierarchy should be exploring; Manchester United outcast Luke Shaw.

Shaw’s torrid time at Manchester United has been well documented, and 22-year-old defender hasn’t managed to hold down a regular position in Jose Mourinho’s starting XI since the Portuguese manager took over at Old Trafford in 2016.

It would be silly of Everton not to explore the opportunity of capturing Shaw’s signature.

The England international is only a year older than Tierney and already has a heap of Premier League experience; meaning he could come into the Toffees setup and hit the ground running, unlike Tierney who may need time to settle.

At 22 years of age, Shaw still has his best years ahead of him and this is something Everton are reportedly looking for in their search to replace their long-term left back Leighton Baines.

So why not take a punt on Shaw? If the pacey full-back could reproduce any of the form he showed playing for Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino he’d be an incredible purchase for the Toffees.

Considering his current relationship with Mourinho, Shaw would be the obvious choice of left-back to explore and would likely be available if Everton came calling for him, while prizing Tierney away from Celtic may be more hassle than it’s worth.

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Liverpool

As some Liverpool fans call for his signing, Shinji Kagawa could be an excellent addition

The Japanese international worked under Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund.

Mathew Nash

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Japan are out of the World Cup but they gained many a fan with their brave effort against Belgium last night. The Samurai Blue led 2-0 before goals from Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli helped the Red Devils to victory. But there were several incredible performances, including from Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa.

He was exceptional in the middle of the park, linking the attack to defence masterfully in a performance which reminded people just why Manchester United once splashed out on his signature.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

In fact, his performances at the World Cup overall have been fantastic. So much so, that some of the fans from United’s bitter rivals Liverpool are suggesting they make a move for the player:

The reasons why are clear. Jurgen Klopp is a big fan of Kagawa and first took him to European football with Borussia Dortmund. He got the best out of the player and was a truly massive fan of his. Back in 2013, with Kagawa out of the picture at United, Klopp told The Guardian it broke his heart to see and that it had put ‘tears in his eyes’. He also dubbed Kagawa ‘one of the best players in the world.’

Now, 29-year-old Kagawa is looking back to his best. He was one of Dortmund’s best players last season, before an ankle injury cut things short and under the guidance of his former boss Klopp he could be a star – which would be great to rub in Manchester United’s face.

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