Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is hoping to overcome injury in time for Sunday’s clash with boyhood club Arsenal.
The 26-year-old has been one of the few bright spots in a bleak season at Old Trafford and has been a mainstay in Louis van Gaal’s side, although he missed Thursday’s Europa League win over FC Midtjylland with a shoulder problem.
That match was just the second he has missed all campaign, and the centre-back is looking to avoid a third absence when the Gunners visit Old Trafford.
“Touch wood, that carries on,” Smalling said when asked about his impressive United displays.
“I was disappointed to miss the other night, but I’m hoping to be okay to play this game.
“I’ve not really done anything differently to the other lads but, probably from about halfway through last season, I got on a good run in the team and I’ve just tried to carry that on from there. Long may it continue.”
Smalling will be well aware how vital victory is against title-chasing Arsenal if United want to keep their faint top-four hopes alive, with rivals Manchester City currently six points above them.
However, the teams’ last meeting brought with it United’s most comprehensive loss of the season, with Alexis Sanchez’s brace and a Mesut Ozil strike sealing a comfortable 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium.
Despite the previous result, though, Smalling is confident ahead of a fixture he cares about more than most, having grown up supporting the Gunners.
“I always look forward to these games,” Smalling told Sunday’s matchday programme.
“It’s no secret that I was an Arsenal supporter growing up, so this fixture is even bigger for me and especially given it involves two of the biggest teams in the country.
“I hope I can step out onto the field.”