Sir Alex: Duo are nearly there
Sir Alex Ferguson says Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are both expected back on Manchester United duty within the next fortnight.
Ferguson did say prior to the recent international break that Smalling was ready to resume training after suffering a broken metatarsal during pre-season. That has not happened, though. And while the former Fulham man - earmarked for an England recall by Roy Hodgson - is making progress, it seems both he and Jones, who is also yet to make a senior appearance this season after having a knee operation, will be returning at roughly the same time.
"Chris has trained with (reserve coach) Warren Joyce for a couple of days now but it is non-contact at the moment," said Ferguson.
"He is being the free player in training sessions. "But the encouraging thing is he is definitely on the way back.
"I also expect Phil Jones to start on the football side next Monday and the two of them are both only two or three weeks away."
Ferguson was speaking ahead of Tuesday night's Champions League encounter with Braga at Old Trafford, which could once again see the use of a new diamond formation, including Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley.
"If it turns out we play the diamond consistently it would be revolutionary because it is going against our history," said Ferguson.
"But the level of the game in England and Europe now is so high that making yourself unpredictable is going to be a strength. "Teams will have to think if we are going to use two out wide or the diamond because we have players capable of doing both things.
"Kagawa and Cleverley can play really well in the type of game that a diamond offers, whilst in Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia we have very good wide players."
After a draining return to the Far East during the international break, Kagawa, like Cleverley, was excused Saturday's win over Stoke so he would be fully refreshed as United look to extend this season's 100% record in the Champions League. The Japan international is still getting used to life in England, and Ferguson presumably felt a confrontation with Tony Pulis' 'jolly green giants' would not do much for his development.
"I don't believe I have cemented my place yet," Kagawa told Japanese news agency Kyodo.
"There is not one game that I can be satisfied with the way I played over the 90 minutes."
Ferguson has already confirmed defensive duo Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra will be rested ahead of Sunday's Premier League encounter with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, whilst others, including Robin van Persie, could find themselves in the same position.
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