Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson just held his weekly press conference ahead of tomorrow's Premier League tie with Stoke City. During it, the main bits of team news is that Ashley Young is fit again and that Chris Smalling is progressing from his injury recovery but he's not quite at full fitness yet. Here is what the gaffer had to say about these two players and those on his squad that have recently returned from international duty:
"Everyone came back from the internationals fit. Which is a bonus. It is always a time when you're a bit concerned about getting the players back but, fortunately, we've been lucky this time. Also Ashley Young is fit. Chris Smalling is not quite there but is making progress."Young gives us another option."
- Ferguson | Source: ManUtd.com
The part on Smalling is slightly disappointing as United currently only have two fit first-team central-defenders and he was even a dark-horse candidate to start versus the Potters at right-back due to his ability to defend against their aerial threat. It sounds, though, he's nearing a return and will be able to provide cover for both Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans very soon. Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic are expected to return in November.
The manager had this further to say about Young and on his central-midfield:
"As I’ve said many times over the last few weeks, the strength of our squad is the attacking options we have and we’re getting better with Darren Fletcher coming back which has been terrific for him and for us. There has been some progress with players like Nick Powell, who is progressing well, as is Tom Cleverley and Anderson is getting better all the time so all the fears about the midfield positions are evaporating quite well. I wouldn’t say Young has been forgotten. It’s always the same when a player gets injured, he’s not there so they can be out of people’s minds. Young has shown his qualities.Very few players can cross the ball as well as he can and his goalscoring ratio is very good for us. Didn’t he get 11 goals for us last season? For a wide player that’s very good. I don’t think you can underestimate that or forget it. I think any player coming to our club with ability and who also had a good record at Aston Villa will have the determination to do well. The opportunities are there for him, he has the opportunity to win things here and I don’t think that’s lost on him. I’m sure during the time he’s been out he’s been thinking about that. That’s what players do when they’ve been out, they start thinking about what should have been for them and what they can be for him. That will hopefully surface as the season goes on now."
Young's return is certainly welcome and he should add more depth out wide. He's hardly featured this season but his partnership with Patrice Evra last season, on the left flank, was arguably United's strongest on that side.
Fergie had this to say as well about Stoke:
"[Stoke] are a handful with their set-piece play and long throw-ins. I think Stoke have only lost one goal away from home this season. Continuity brings consistency and they've had the same manager and staff for a long time and, mainly, the same set of players. It makes them better."
For the most part, Fergie now has a fit squad for the moment and the only injury concerns are to Smalling, Jones, and Vidic. Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) and Antonio Valencia could be rested though tomorrow as each have historically been looked after with caution after returning from international duty in the Americas.