Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has hinted that defender Chris Smalling could make a return from injury in the Boxing Day clash against Newcastle.
The Dutchman was far from confident that any of the injured contingent at Old Trafford would be back for the meeting with the Toon on Friday, but there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the versatile England man.
“I don't think so, I am sorry," he told MUTV when asked if any injured players would return. "Maybe Smalling. Fellaini is still not available.
"Smalling is a question mark - I have to look tomorrow but it's always like that.
"For a few players it [this period] is fun because they are recovering quickly, but you also have players who are not recovering so quickly, so I have to rotate. My problem is I have a lot of injured players. That is the problem with these matches in the coming weeks."
Manchester United have suffered a number of high-profile injuries throughout the season, with the manager's hand regularly forced because of the number of players on the treatment table.
It's impacted the Red Devils' defence in particular, with the likes of Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair seeing more action than they might of expected because of the problems Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have experienced.
Van Gaal will be hoping the club have come through that difficult period however, and keeping his top players fit could be key to an eventual top four finish and return to the Champions League.
Currently sitting third in the Premier League table, a victory over Newcastle would cement their place in the upper echelons moving into the new year, with fixtures against Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke also on the horizon.
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