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Mou has something to smile about as he won’t have to worry about Smalling.

Manchester United have been boosted by reports that key defender Eric Bailly is closing on a return to action – and could even figure in next week’s Champions League clash with Sevilla.

The 23-year-old Ivorian has been sidelined since November when he sustained an ankle injury in their 1-0 defeat at Chelsea and has missed a total of 21 matches since.

In his absence, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have failed to take their chance to shine in the heart of the United rearguard, with the duo coming up for strong criticism following the 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday.

But it appears salvation is on the way, with reports suggesting former Villarreal man Bailly is nearing his comeback.

El Chiringuito claim the player is now over his injury and on the brink of a return to first-team training which, if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, has been pencilled in for Friday.

It’s suggested the FA Cup 5th-round clash with Huddersfield at the weekend could come too soon – but next week’s Champions League last-16 first leg tie with Sevilla could see Bailly restored to the first-team squad, with the Ivorian having an outside chance of starting the game.

In the meantime, the paper believes Mourinho’s frustrations with Smalling and Jones will see the pair dropped for the weekend’s clash at the John Smith’s Stadium – with Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo likely to be given the chance to stake their claims for more regular inclusion.