Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits he has been ‘delighted’ with Chris Smalling’s season-long loan at Roma, while distancing himself from making defensive additions at the club this summer.
Smalling is set to return to his parent club this week after Roma failed to come to an agreement with Manchester United about extending his loan stay in the Italian capital, the centre-back set to miss out on the delayed Europa League conclusion this month.
The 30-year-old has enjoyed an impressive season for the Giallorossi, making 37 appearances and scoring three goals for the Serie A club.
Smalling’s form has seen him attract attention from the likes of Juventus and Inter Milan in recent weeks, while there has even been a suggestion of an England recall, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted he has been ‘delighted’ with the centre-back’s form.
I’m gutted that I can’t finish what we started this season. To experience the love shown to me in such a short time was extra special and it will not be forgotten. I want to thank and wish all the players and staff the best of luck against Sevilla. DAJE ROMA! 💛❤️ 🐺 pic.twitter.com/9vHfpWUNsz
— Chris Smalling (@ChrisSmalling) August 4, 2020
“I think Chris has shown, over his career at Manchester United, how valuable he is for United,” Solskjaer said at his pre-match press conference. “This season was about him being a regular and going to Roma, showing and proving how good a centre-back he is.
“I wanted to give Harry [Maguire] and Victor [Lindelof] and maybe Axel [Tuanzebe] a chance and so he found out that it was best for him to go to Roma to play for a year.
“Now he’s coming back. Chris has shown this season that he will be valuable so I’ve been speaking to Chris throughout and been delighted with his season.”
Manchester United finished the season with the third-best defence in the Premier League, conceding just three more goals (36) than champions Liverpool.
Despite their improvement at the back, United have been linked with adding a pacey centre-back to their ranks this summer to partner the not-so-spritely Harry Maguire, with Lille’s Gabriel Magalhaes having been linked in recent days.
However, Solskjaer said he was ‘not concerned’ about some of the defensive lapses that have been evident at times this season.
“We’re always looking to improve the team and squad,” the Norwegian said. “But I think we’re very, very solid at the back. Sometimes, you might be exposed behind you when pressing as high as we’ve done. We decided we’re going to be a high-pressing team, when we can.
“If you don’t take risks, you won’t improve. Once in a while, it’s been that they’ve found some space behind us but I’ve not been concerned about it.”
United resume their European campaign on Wednesday night, holding a 5-0 advantage over Austrian outfit LASK in their last 16 tie, before heading to Germany for the mini-tournament style conclusion to the Europa League.