Keown argued in the Daily Mail: "Smalling is a centre half playing at right back, and I always have sympathy with someone playing out of position. It doesn’t work at the highest level. Full back is a specialist position where opposition wingers will exploit any weakness. His career hasn’t caught fire yet at United; it’s been stop-start, and he’s not been a first choice. He has two centre backs in front of him (Ferdinand and Vidic) and must wait until that changes.
"It is very hard to assess Smalling as he is still so inexperienced. He’s 23 and he should have at least 100 starts under his belt in the Premier League by now — but he has made just 64 for Fulham and United. On Sunday, he didn’t organise Valencia well (or quickly) enough in front of him to protect him. You must get good early information to your winger, get him in front and get the pass blocked."