The Reds defender had been touted by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson to play “some part” of the Champions League group match in Portugal – in fact, he played the full 90 minutes as centre-back, firstly alongside Jonny Evans and then substitute Rio Ferdinand as the Reds came from behind to win 3-1 and confirm a place in the next round.
“Watching the Champions League games from the stands was frustrating for me, so it was good to be back out there,” Smalling said after the match.
“It’s good to be able to come back with a win as well, so I’m feeling happy.
“To be able to qualify with two games to go really gives the manager a chance to play other players and keep people fresh for what’s going to be a very long season.”
Wednesday’s match was Smalling’s first competitive fixture since 6 May, so the recent step-up in his training and of course the recall into United’s defence were long awaited.
“Watching the Champions League games from the stands was frustrating for me, so it was good to be back out there - and good to be back with a win."
- Chris Smalling