Both Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia are nearing returns
The news keeps trending towards the positive in regards to the injury situation at Manchester United. After Sir Alex Ferguson's side defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-3 at White Hart Lane, the United boss revealed a time frame for expected return dates for a number of squad players. Here is what he had to say:
"The good thing is I'm getting players back. Anderson is back now, Cleverley will be fit for next week [against West Brom on Sunday] and Chris Smalling will be back for Thursday [against Athletic Club]. Valencia should be back for the away trip the week after. If we've got a full squad it gives us a better chance [to win the league]."
- Ferguson | Source: MUTV
Anderson was on the bench for today's game and his return has bolstered the depth in central-midfield. Tom Cleverley's return will obviously do the same. Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs are all preferred choices right now in the center of the park but all three are in their 30s -- the latter two aren't far from being 40-years-old. Because of United's current involvement in the Europa League, the fixture list for the next few weeks is quite congested. Today's match against Spurs is the first of four over a current 12-day span. The Red Devils are certainly prioritizing the Premier League title-chase but Fergie will still need squad rotation options for their upcoming two-legged tie versus La Liga side Athletic Bilbao.
Chris Smalling received a nasty blow to the head last week while on England duty so his quick return is welcomed. Look for the defender to be in the starting XI on Thursday against Athletic -- likely giving Rio Ferdinand a rest. Antonio Valencia was arguably United's standout player in the month of January and with Nani's inconsistent form since the Portuguese winger's recent recovery from injury, more options are certainly welcome on the right-flank. The away weekend game that Fergie mentions as a target return date for Valencia is the one on March 18 versus Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Beyond the players mentioned, Darren Fletcher and captain Nemanja Vidic continue to be ruled out for the remainder of the season due to illness and injury, respectively. Striker Michael Owen has recently returned to first-team training and he likely will be available for selection in the upcoming week. Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard is expected to be nearing a return from injury as well.