Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is looking forward to experiencing a new league after joining Roma on a season-long loan. The 29-year-old was told by United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he could not guarantee him regular first-team football this season because of fellow England defender Harry Maguire – an £80million summer signing – and Sweden international Victor Lindelof’s partnership.
Therefore, Smalling, who signed a new deal until 2022 in December, is set to spend the campaign at the Serie A club. “This is the perfect opportunity for me,” he told Roma’s website. “The chance to experience a new league, with a big team that has got big aspirations is exactly what I needed.”
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He added on Twitter: “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.”
Smalling’s exit ends a near 10-year spell at Old Trafford after he joined the club from Fulham in summer 2010 having signed a pre-contract agreement in the previous January.
He had only made 13 Premier League appearances and helped the Cottagers reach the UEFA Cup final before moving to United as then boss Sir Alex Ferguson clearly saw something in the youngster’s abilities.
Smalling has gone on to make 323 appearances for the Red Devils, scoring 18 goals in the process.
He has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup, a UEFA Europa League and three Community Shields with the club. Smalling made his senior debut for England in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria in September 2011 and has gone on to make 31 appearances.
However, he has yet to feature in current boss Gareth Southgate’s plans with his last appearance for the Three Lions coming back in 2017.
Therefore, a move to Italy could also help him resurrect his international career in addition to boosting his longer term plans of being a regular in the United team once again. Smalling should get regular football in Rome given that they sold Greece centre-back Konstantinos Manolas to Napoli for £32million.
Speaking about the deal to sign him, Roma sporting director Gianluca Petrachi said: “We are pleased to bring a player like Chris, who has so much experience, to Roma.”
Smalling follows Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Antonio Valencia and Ander Herrera as the fifth high-profile departure from United this summer as Solskjaer continues his squad rebuilding work.