sport

Smalling pleased to make return

Chris Smalling is delighted to be back in the rhythm with Manchester United after overcoming his injury troubles since joining the club.

The England defender was ruled out of the European Championships due to a groin problem he suffered in United's penultimate game of last season, and then picked up a foot injury which further delayed his return to action.

He finally made his comeback for the Red Devils in November and is pleased with how things have gone so far.

"I feel good," Smalling said. "I've been able to play a few games now and it's just a case of keeping that going.

"The more games you have the more you get into a rhythm and the more confident you feel.

"I just want to stay injury-free now and hopefully go on a good run; there are lots of important matches coming up.

"It's been one of the worst (injury setbacks) I've had. It's never easy to miss the start of the season and then come back into it, but I'm fortunate that I've started to get back into the team.

"The main thing you focus on when you get back is getting into a rhythm.

"You've missed out while everyone has been playing and doing well so it makes you focus harder to get yourself back to being better than you were before."

United were top of the Premier League when the 23-year-old made his return and remain there now, currently seven points clear, ahead of Sunday's encounter with Liverpool at Old Trafford.

With the north-west pair being the two most successful clubs in the history of English football, clashes between them have traditionally been major fixtures in the season calendar.

Liverpool have not featured in the title race for the last few years, though, and at the moment the gap between them in eighth place and Sir Alex Ferguson's league leaders is 21 points.