EXCLUSIVE: Smalling shock for United as fever may force defender out for three months
Manchester United fear key defender Chris Smalling could be out for three months with glandular fever.
Smalling, 22, missed the Boxing Day win over Wigan with what was thought to be a heavy cold, but the illness is more serious and he will remain on the long list of United players currently sidelined through injury or illness.
The acute stage of glandular fever — usually involving flu-like symptoms and fatigue — lasts up to two weeks, but sufferers cannot do strenuous exercise for at least two months. For a professional footballer, it will be longer.
Blow: Chris Smalling could be out for three months if his illness is confirmed
That would be a huge setback for Smalling and United, already without Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Jonny Evans, Fabio Da Silva and Michael Owen.
Former Liverpool and Sunderland physio Mark Leather believes United’s 10million signing from Fulham could be out for three months if his illness is confirmed by the club.
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He said: ‘You can get back into shape in two months but it might be another three to four weeks before you’re firing on all cylinders. The first time he would be able to play a full game would be nearer to three months.’
Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones missed the win over Wigan but are expected back for Saturday’s clash with Blackburn at Old Trafford.
Return: Phil Jones (centre) will be back to face Blackburn Rovers
Jones, who moved from Ewood Park in the summer, was in the Rovers side beaten 7-1 at Old Trafford last season.
He describes it as ‘probably the worst day of my career’ but warned team-mates not to take Steve Kean’s side lightly. ‘It won’t be easy,’ he said. ‘They’re a lot better than their League position.’