Chris Smalling has tonsillitis but Sir Alex Ferguson expects quick return

Smalling suffering from tonsillitis but Ferguson expects defender to make quick return

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed Chris Smalling is suffering from an illness but expects the defender to be back in action next week.

It was initially feared that Smalling could be sidelined for up to three months with glandular fever but Ferguson revealed the centre-half has tonsillitis.

The Scot, who expects to be able to name Smalling in his side to face Newcastle next wednesday, said: “I have seen the reports. He has tonsilitis.”

Boost: Chris Smalling could be in the Manchester United side to face Newcastle

Boost: Chris Smalling could be in the Manchester United side to face Newcastle

Ferguson also revealed that he could have Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones available for Saturday”s clash with Blackburn at Old Trafford after the pair missed the win over Wigan on Boxing Day.

Looking further ahead, Ferguson said he sees Tottenham as one of the main challengers this season for the Premier League title.

Spurs are seven points behind United and Manchester rivals City but Harry Redknapp”s side have a game in hand.

Fighting fit: Phil Jones took a knock at Fulham but is set to face Blackburn

Fighting fit: Phil Jones took a knock at Fulham but is set to face Blackburn

“They are playing the best football in the country,” said Ferguson. “They could win it on this form.”

And the United manager, who celebrates his 70th birthday on Saturday, said the club will look at exercising their option on Dimitar Berbatov”s contract in March.

The Bulgarian has just six months left on his current deal, but there is a clause which means United can offer an extra year.