Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed in Friday’s press conference that Chris Smalling should recover from a foot injury in time for Manchester United’s meeting with Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on January 13.
The Englishman picked up an injury ahead of Man United’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool earlier this month, pulling out of the starting XI at the last minute, and has not featured since.
In his absence, defensive duo Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones have performed solidly at the back in wins over Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday morning, Solskjaer reaffirmed that Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez were all set for imminent returns, but noted Smalling would take slightly longer.
Solskjaer said this morning that Lukaku, Sanchez and Martial are in contention to feature against Bournemouth on Sunday. Smalling still out but could be back for Tottenham on Jan. 13.
— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonESPN) December 28, 2018
Solskjaer has got players looking to play forward once more, reestablishing an atmosphere of positivity among the group, but something remains rotten at the heart of United’s defence.
By the time Mourinho was sacked after 17 Premier League games, United had already conceded more goals than they did for the whole of last season. And that sloppiness has continued: a penalty for Cardiff City and an unnecessary set-piece goal for Huddersfield, who could have scored on other occasions, underline a sense of shakiness inherent within this team.
Against better sides with more pace and movement, the story may well be quite different for United. Solskjaer knows he will need to make fundamental changes.