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Chris Smalling Joins Roma on 1-Year Loan Contract from Manchester United

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2019

Manchester United's Chris Smalling during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Saturday, March 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Chris Smalling has officially left Manchester United to join AS Roma on loan on Friday. The Serie A outfit confirmed the centre-back's arrival for the rest of the season, per the club's official website

Roma are stumping up €3 million as part of the deal, while sporting director Gianluca Petrachi said: "We are pleased to bring a player like Chris, who has so much experience, to Roma. We are convinced he will help the growth of this squad and all the lads he plays alongside."

Meanwhile, Smalling looked ahead to a new challenge: "This is the perfect opportunity for me. The chance to experience a new league, with a big team that has got big aspirations is exactly what I needed. Hopefully I can hit the ground running. I'm looking forward to joining up with my teammates."

The player also reaffirmed his desire to play more often:

Chris Smalling @ChrisSmalling

Manchester – the club, the people, the city, has always held a special place in my heart but I still have as much desire to play regular first team football as I did when I joined the club over 9 years ago. AS Roma is a fantastic club, with a lot of history... https://t.co/jajbsJ79M1

Earlier in the day, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed why Smalling would be moving to the Italian top flight, at least temporarily:

Paul Hirst @hirstclass

OGS confirms Smalling on his way to Roma after agreeing to a one-year loan deal "I couldn't promise Chris regular football, so he’s on the plane over now. I think he'll enjoy the experience."

Solskjaer also told MUTV (h/t Adam Bostock of the team's official website) why the move could work out for Smalling: "Chris fancied the chance to go over there; it's a new experience, new adventure. He'll come back better for it because it's a big club, it's a good league."

Smalling's departure leaves United potentially short of strength and depth at the back. Injury-prone Phil Jones remains available behind starting centre-backs Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, but Eric Bailly is still dealing with a long-term knee injury.

Cognizant of the need for numbers at the heart of defence, Solskjaer did confirm that while others may join Smalling in moving on, one holdover will stay in the fold:

jamie jackson @JamieJackson___

Marcos Rojo, says OGS, going nowhere: the Hotel California of @manutd CBs: he can check out but never... https://t.co/3tFxaKWhsI

Despite questions about the quality of United's defensive reserves, Smalling had become surplus to requirements after a summer of heavy spending in the area.

The deal to make Harry Maguire the world's most-expensive defender has already improved what was a shaky back four. Maguire's arrival, along with the £50 million capture of right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace, have added the athleticism and technique the Red Devils had been missing at the base of the team.

Smalling hasn't added much of either of those qualities since moving to the red half of Manchester from Fulham in 2010. United were intrigued enough by his talents as a youngster to fend off competition from Arsenal for the signature defender barely graduated from playing non-league football with Maidstone.

Even though he's won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League with United, Smalling has never become the linchpin many expected him to develop into.

Dominic Booth @DomBooth19

Chris Smalling isn't world class, but I feel he's been a little harshly treated by England, and now United. More dependable than Phil Jones (who made the WC 2018 squad) and Marcos Rojo (a red card liability). I understand letting him go, but his #mufc career not a disaster.

He's aggressive and dominant in the air, but his pace and positional sense have been inconsistent. Playing out from the back has also remained a struggle.

Moving to Italy, where the pace of pay is generally slower than in England's top flight, could be the perfect tonic for a raw talent who is still to reach his full potential.