Sir Alex: Smith still not fit
By Phil Jackson. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Alan Smith is still not ready to make a full return for Manchester United, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 25-year-old completed a remarkable comeback from injury when he came on as a late substitute in the 1-0 UEFA Champions League win on Tuesday night.
But having been out for just seven months since his horrific double leg break at Anfield, the fiery Scot knows his tenacious frontman is still some way off match fit.
"Alan is not 100 percent," Ferguson explained.
"He is still well short of that. But we are seeing good signs every day. He is getting better and now he has the confidence of knowing he is back, which is very pleasing.
"You always know Alan will play with honesty and make it hard for defenders, which is one of the reasons why I brought him on."
While the £6 million former Leeds United man looks set to miss out on a starting role for the visit of Newcastle United on Sunday, he could well be expected to do a job for the team after the international break.
United have a gruelling nine games in four weeks scheduled, and Smith's likeliest start looks set to be the Carling Cup third round trip to Crewe Alexandra on October 25.
Smith's appearance at the Estadio da Luz capped a hard-fought victory for The Red Devils which ended the club's record of failing to win in Europe for almost three years.
But Ferguson has drawn a clear line between the problems of old and the present crop of rising stars.
"For a club with our history, we expect to do better away from home," he insisted.
"But we have made a lot of changes in the past three years. We hope this team grows together because we know it can get better."
For now United sit pretty at the top of Group F with FC Copenhagen the next visitors to Old Trafford in the competition on October 17.