Long-term injury absentee Chris Smalling to bolster Manchester United defence for European clash with Braga

By Dean Wilkins

Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Hodgson will be able to breathe a sigh of relief as Chris Smalling is ready to feature in Manchester United’s Champions League tie in Braga.

The long-term injured England and United defender has not played in six months after a series of injuries ruled him out of action.

And with fellow countryman Phil Jones on the brink of return the Reds and England chiefs will welcome the sight of Smalling in action.

But despite a number of injury problems at the back causing a headache for Sir Alex, his competitive midfield forces him to leave both Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes at home.

“Fletcher got a little bit of a cold on Sunday, and there’s no point taking him travelling with a cold,” said the Scot. “Scholesy, for the last few games I’ve been resting him to freshen him up a little bit. I’m just taking care of an old man, that’s all!”

Scholes has not played in any of United’s last four fixtures as a bustling of fit midfielders has pushed him down the pecking order.

United travel to Portugal hoping to maintain their 100% Champions League record so far this season and seal qualification into the knockout stages.

Team: De Gea, Lindegaard, Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Buttner, Smalling, Evra, Cleverley, Giggs, Anderson, Nani, Valencia, Carrick, Young, Powell, Rooney, Welbeck, Chicharito, Van Persie.

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