Sir Alex Ferguson has assured Chris Smalling his switch to right-back will not be permanent - but the Manchester United defender must stay there for Saturday evening's Barclays Premier League encounter with Bolton.
When Rafael suffered a dislocated shoulder during the latter part of pre-season, Ferguson turned to Smalling to fill the breach. Yet so easily has he adapted that England manager Fabio Capello did not just include Smalling in his squad for the recent Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales, he handed the player starts as well.
Smalling has continued to insist he views himself solely as a central defender and Ferguson said: "We do have to be fair to him because we brought him here as a centre-back. His time there will come but the way he is playing at the moment there's no need to change."
He added: "It fell on him really because Rafael got his early season injury and, in the Community Shield, we had to consider the height of the Manchester City team," said Ferguson.
"We knew they were a big team so we had to balance out the aerial strength somewhere along the line. Bolton is another example of where the height of Smalling and his ability in the air is a big bonus for us.
Although Bolton are a much more stylish outfit since the arrival of Owen Coyle from Burnley, they still possess enough of a physical presence to present United's rookie goalkeeper David de Gea will a searching examination.
Not that Ferguson is too worried. With enough protection from referee Andre Marriner, he is confident the Spain Under-21 star can cope.
"I have no issues with him at all," said the United chief.
"He didn't get the protection he should have at West Brom but I thought he dealt with that part very well.
"He made a mistake with the goal but on every occasion where they put the ball on top of him he dealt with it. As I said about Peter Schmeichel, when he came to us he had the same experience. He saw it through and this won't do David any harm."
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