Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has been ruled out of action until Christmas with a muscle tear, meaning he will miss the Red Devils’ forthcoming Premier League fixtures against Liverpool and Aston Villa.
The England international sustained the injury during the first half of Monday night’s Premier League clash between United and Southampton at St Mary’s - and a scan has since revealed that he will spend the next fortnight on the sidelines.
This is according to the Daily Mirror, who understand that Smalling should be back in time to face Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
Smalling, who has experienced a stop-start season due to various injuries and his red card against Manchester City last month, suffered the 43rd injury of Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United tenure earlier this week.
Much has been made of the unprecedented injury crisis at Old Trafford, with the club’s former assistant manager Mike Phelan pinning the blame on Van Gaal’s training methods.
United already have the likes of Luke Shaw, Phil Jones and Daley Blind nursing various injuries, and news that Smalling will also miss the next two matches is sure to come as a major blow to Van Gaal.
Blow for Van Gaal
The 25-year-old was heavily criticised for his disastrous display in the Manchester derby, but has since bounced back with a string of fine performances.
Jonny Evans - who himself has only just returned from a lengthy injury lay-off - should replace Smalling alongside Marcos Rojo at the heart of Manchester United’s defence for Sunday’s match against fierce rivals Liverpool.
United are aiming to win their sixth Premier League match in a row, to keep the pressure up on Manchester City and league-leaders Chelsea, who currently have an eight-point lead over Van Gaal’s men.