27/12/2011 09:30, Report by Gemma Thompson

Reds hopeful on duo

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will be back in United's defence for the New Year's Day clash with Blackburn providing they can both shake of the illness which kept them out of the Wigan victory.

A makeshift back four, which included Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick, and later Patrice Evra at centre-back alongside Carrick, put on an impressive display to repel any threat from the Latics on Boxing Day.

United's injury list has been mounting by the game of late, but Sir Alex hopes to be able to call upon the services of Jones and Smalling against Rovers folllowing further setbacks for Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans, who is likely to be out for two weeks with a calf injury.

"We've had a nightmare in the last few days. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have both been ill, then Rio [Ferdinand] cried off on Sunday with a back injury and Jonny Evans came off injured at half-time [against Wigan]," the boss told MUTV.

"It does put you under a bit of pressure, but fortunately we had a good first half and got an early goal which helped us. And we managed to get through the game without any more injuries.

"I'm hoping that Smalling and Jones will have recovered from illness [for Saturday] as that will make a difference."

More: Boss - We're hitting top form | Jones hails Carrick


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