Smalling to return for Man Utd in Champions League

Chris Smalling could make his first appearance of the season as Manchester United play Braga in Portugal in the Champions League, the Guardian has reported. The England international has so far missed the entirety of the campaign with a broken metatarsal.

United go into the match in search of a fourth straight victory in the competition for the first time in four years, the newspaper adds. A victory would seal qualification for the next stage for United, who exited the competition at this point last season after Ferguson admitted taking progression for granted.

Smalling is expected to feature in a back four playing in front of goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard and also containing Rafael da Silva at right-back, summer signing Alex Buttner at left-back and Jonny Evans as Smalling’s central defensive partner. Ferguson has been keen to rest Rio Ferdinand and Smalling’s return provides him with the opportunity to do so.

Ferguson said: “Since the start of the season we’ve been operating on the borderline in that area, playing Michael Carrick at centre-half and so on, so it’s good to get back up to strength. We will be stronger as a unit with Smalling and [Phil] Jones back.

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