Chris Smalling sends message to Jose Mourinho after comments about his feet at Man Utd
Jose Mourinho's move to Roma sees him reunite with Chris Smalling, with whom he shared a mixed relationship during two-and-a-half years in the Manchester United dugout
Chris Smalling is relishing the chance to work under Jose Mourinho again - despite the scathing criticism he faced from his former Manchester United manager.
Mourinho was appointed Roma boss in May, one month after he was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur following a poor run in the Premier League.
His move to Stadio Olimpico sees him reunite with Smalling, with whom he shared a mixed relationship during two-and-a-half years in the Old Trafford dugout.
While Mourinho trusted the defender with the armband for the EFL Cup final victory in 2017, he also publicly ridiculed his footwork after United won the Europa League later that season.
Discussing his side's centre-backs following the 2-0 victory over Ajax, Mourinho said: "What matters is that my players understand we cannot have doubts there – defensive creativity only in emergency situations.
"We prepare a game better when we’re aware of our own weaknesses. Everyone said Ajax played beautiful football and that the beauty of the game matters.
"I told my players that, for me, beautiful is not giving our opponents what they want.
"I even joked with Smalling – ‘With your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back! That’s where we won the game.
"During the initial stage of build-up we never played from our centre-backs to our midfielders, because they are great at recovering possession pressing high.
"In our midfield they didn’t recover the ball once. If the ball isn’t there, what are they going to press?"
Smalling may easily have taken offence from Mourinho's remarks, as he was already a seasoned Premier League performer with two winners' medals to his name.
The Englishman - who won 31 Three Lions caps - also drew criticism from Mourinho later in his tenure for alleged unwillingness to play through injury.
But Smalling appears keen to draw a line under his history with Mourinho and forge a successful relationship with the Portuguese at Roma.
"Ultimately, if the manager wasn't speaking about you and didn't want you to play and push, that is when you need to worry because he has stopped caring about you, he doesn't want you involved and he doesn't want you to play," Smalling told BBC Sport .
"He is a born winner. He likes to push everyone to the limits. That is what he has done throughout his career and it has reaped results."
Smalling also described Mourinho's appointment as a "surprise" and cause of "excitement", adding: "I knew the media would build up something about our relationship in the past.
"But from a personal point of view, it is a good thing because I have played under him.
"We have won trophies together. He made me captain in one of those finals - the 2017 EFL Cup final - as well, so having the chance to play under someone who you know is good, has been so successful and is so determined to win trophies at all costs is a positive."