The defender pulled up with a muscle injury against Southampton almost three weeks ago but could be ready to return against Newcastle.
It’s still possible that Marouane Fellaini could return given he wasn’t technically on the injury list, the Belgian midfielder missed the draw against Aston Villa through illness.
But van Gaal confirmed to MUTV earlier today that only the England international could return on Boxing Day which will be a blow to supporters who wanted to see the return of several key men.
However, with Rafael and Angel Di Maria fit enough to return to the bench at the weekend, both may have a chance of featuring from the start on Friday.
Smalling himself had been in good form after returning from suspension and had formed a strong partnership with Rojo who isn’t expected to return for the Newcastle match.