Jose Mourinho explains how he overcame concerns over Chris Smalling’s feet at Roma


Jose Mourinho admitted he had issues with Chris Smalling during the pair’s time at Manchester United, but they’ve been cleared up since reuniting in Italy with Roma

Jose Mourinho has explained how Chris Smalling has gone from an area of weakness at Manchester United, to a pillar of strength for his Roma side.

The Special One is coming to the end of a typically tumultuous first season in charge of the Italians, a campaign which has been punctuated by post-match rants at referees, disillusioned players and as so often in his illustrious career – the chance of a trophy.

The Giallorossi are one game away from their first European triumph since 1961, when they face Feyenoord in the inaugural Europa Conference League final. Domestically, Roma are in a battle for a top-five finish and Smalling has played a key role in all of their successes.

Smalling moved to the Eternal City in October 2020 in a bid to repair a reputation which had been damaged during his final years at Old Trafford. For all of his perceived flaws, the former England international was a regular in title-winning United sides and was also part of the last Red Devils team to lift a trophy in 2017.

Mourinho was his manager on that occasion as well, as United overcame a highly fancied Ajax team to lift the Europa League. But in his analysis of the victory, Mourinho rather bizarrely suggested that United had to play their way around concerns he had over Smalling’s feet.

“What matters is that my players understand we cannot have doubts there – defensive creativity only in emergency situations,” Mourinho said at the time. “We prepare a game better when we’re aware of our own weaknesses. I told my players that, for me, beautiful is not giving our opponents what they want.