Woodgate has missed the last two Championship matches since hobbling out of the defeat to Leicester City on September 29. But the 32-year-old has made sufficient progress during the international break to suggest he will be fine to reclaim his place in the Middlesbrough starting line-up at Brighton this Saturday. And Boro boss Tony Mowbray feels the centre-back's return means the squad can now cope with the departure of McManus after months of uncertainty.
Bristol City have been keen to take the former Celtic defender back to Ashton Gate since his first loan move there was cut short in March. It seemed inevitable the 30- year-old would complete a permanent transfer during the summer, only for his wages to prove a stumbling block. However, Robins manager Derek McInnes has struck another 93-day loan. With Woodgate and Andre Bikey ahead of him, McManus was aware that Seb Hines and George Friend are both alternatives to fill in centrally even though the Scot did start the win over Watford last time around. McInnes said:
"He was desperate to come back and now we have him for the next three months. Stephen is experienced at Championship level, has battling qualities, defends his box and can be the firstball winner.
"He'll be very dominant and a good professional to have about the place. The position is one we've been looking to strengthen for some time and it's great we've got someone who can come in, is desperate to play and also knows all about us too."
McManus had also been tracked by Ipswich Town in the summer and, having fallen down the pecking order under Mowbray, it has been his desire to get first team football this season. His exit is something of a risk from Mowbray, who knows Woodgate has suffered from a hamstring problem a couple of times this season. Skipper Rhys Williams is still a few months away from thinking about a comeback after undergoing surgery on ankle ligament damage sustained last month. But Mowbray clearly feels he has enough options to play in central defence should there be further injuries.
It has emerged right-back Justin Hoyte is now unlikely to face Brighton on Saturday with the hamstring problem he picked up at Watford. Stuart Parnaby is available after recovering from a dislocated jaw so is in contention to start there, even though midfielder Nicky Bailey finished the Watford game as a full-back. Middlesbrough's injury-ravaged squad face six matches inside 21 days and Mowbray knows he is going to have to be creative in his attempts to cope with the schedule. He is unlikely to have Lukas Jutkiewicz, Mustapha Carayol, Curtis Main and Williams during that period.