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Smalling available for Manchester United return against Braga

The central defender has been in full training for a fortnight and could be involved in the Old Trafford clash despite Sir Alex Ferguson saying his comeback will be next month

EXCLUSIVE
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Chris Smalling is available for selection ahead of Manchester United's Champions League clash against Braga, Goal.com has learned.

READY FOR ACTION

CHRIS SMALLING FACTS
AGE
JOINED MAN UTD
CLUB APPEARANCES
CLUB GOALS
ENGLAND CAPS
22
July 2010
63
3
3
Sir Alex Ferguson claimed the England international, along with fellow defender Phil Jones, was "two or three weeks away" from a return at his pre-match media briefing on Monday.

But Goal.com understands that the former Fulham player has been in full training for a fortnight and could even be involved against Portuguese side Braga at Old Trafford.

The versatile defender has been out since breaking his foot in pre-season and has not yet figured for the first-team this term.

But with Ferguson declaring that Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra have been rested for Tuesday's match, ahead of Sunday's crunch Premier League trip to Chelsea, and Nemanja Vidic on the sidelines after undergoing knee surgery, it leaves Jonny Evans as the only fully fit available centre-back in the senior squad.

Unless Smalling is recalled, Michael Carrick could again be drafted into an emergency centre-back role, while Evra's understudy Alexander Buttner could be moved inside. Otherwise, rookies Scott Wootton or Michael Keane are in line for a promotion from the Under-21s.

However, Ferguson poured cold water on the possibility of a return for Smalling or Jones at his pre-match press conference.

"Chris trained [Monday] morning with [reserve-team coach] Warren Joyce," Ferguson explained. "He has trained there a couple of days now but it is non-contact at the moment. The encouraging thing is he is definitely on the way back. I expect Phil Jones to start next Monday on the football side and the two of them are two or three weeks away."

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