Fergie: Smith still some way off

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Sir Alex Ferguson has paid tribute to Alan Smith for his committment to Manchester United's cause, but insists the striker is still some way off making a return to the first team.

The former Leeds United star has returned to competitive action for the second string in recent weeks, following his serious leg injury sustained against Liverpool in February.

While the fiery Scot has been pleased with his combative forward's determination to recover from the double leg break and dislocated ankle injuries, he has moved to quash speculation that the player could be included in the squad for United's crucial home tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

"He is not ready, it is Alan's enthusiasm that he says - if the manger picks me he will play - of course he would, he would play with his leg broke in two that is the type of character we are talking about," Ferguson told Sky Sports News.

"I gave at the time a realistic assessment and thought it would be September, but having seen him back in training you don't realise how serious the injury was.

"But the progress has come and he has played three reserve games now and it is fantastic.

"The thing that makes it fantastic for him is his attitude, the never say die spirit. He is chirpy and has handled the whole thing well - but he is not ready to play."

Meanwhile, the club's multi-million pound midfielder Michael Carrick has been named in The Reds' starting line-up for Saturday, alongside returning club captain Gary Neville.

Carrick joined United just six weeks ago after two successful seasons at White Hart Lane and Ferguson is hoping he can return to full fitness after a frustrating start at the Theatre of Dreams through injury.

"He will be glad to get it over with," Ferguson continued.

"He was a lot to Tottenham, they took a chance on him at West Ham when others didn't and I think the good thing is that he has left in the right way.

"Everything was peaceful and I don't think there are any recriminations from either side. They knew the boy wanted to come here, so we are pleased about that.

"He had his first game against Watford and it showed he needed that and unfortunately he didn't have any real participation with England as we would have liked.

"But he will start tomorrow and hopefully we will see an improvement in his fitness."

Striker Wayne Rooney misses out, serving the last match of his controversial three-match ban from the pre-season Amsterdam Tournament, amidst reports of an off-field altercation with Blackburn Rovers defender Michael Gray.

But the experienced Scotsman refused to be drawn on the allegations surrounding his tenacious 20-year-old star and insists the matter has been handled internally.

"That is an outside situation and has been dealt with," Ferguson added.

Coverage of The Reds' crucial tie with Spurs at Old Trafford starts from 5pm, live on Prem Plus.