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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Man Utd's Smith desperate to return to action

Alan Smith is hoping to be back on the Manchester United bench this week after growing heartily sick of sitting in the Old Trafford crowd.

Seven months after horrifically breaking a leg and fracturing an ankle in United's FA Cup defeat to Liverpool, Smith is on the verge of a first-team recall.

With North London duo Tottenham and Arsenal due to visit the Theatre of Dreams either side of Wednesday's Battle of Britain showdown with Celtic, Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to need as many senior stars fit as possible over the next week.

After coming through his third reserve outing unscathed at Stockport on Tuesday, Smith's return to action could not be better timed.

And, while he accepts the Tottenham encounter may have come just too soon, the 25-year-old is convinced his exile will not last much longer.

'I am fed up of watching,' he told MUTV.

'I am just itching to get involved again now. I have had to put the reins on myself a little bit but overall I can't wait.'

After making a big impression during the early months of his United career, Smith's progress has stalled somewhat, especially since he spent last season in midfield as Ferguson searched for an internal successor to Roy Keane.

The move proved to be only a partial success and with Michael Carrick signed and another move for Owen Hargreaves likely in the January transfer window, Smith has now been restored to the striking department, where he will probably battle Louis Saha for a starting spot.

It promises to be an intriguing duel, particularly as Saha has started the season in such good form.

Smith is a renowned battler though and while accepts he is nowhere near sharp enough to be plunged back into first-team combat from the start, he is ready to answer Ferguson's clarion call when it arrives.

'If the gaffer were to ask me if I would be ready for the bench against Spurs, I would say 'yes' without any hesitation,' said Smith.

'Ninety minutes of Premiership football would be very difficult at the moment but to come on as a substitute would be no problem.

'If you are playing at Old Trafford, you get that adrenaline rush and that would see you through.

'If it is not this weekend then we have the Champions League starting next week against Celtic and, with seven allowed on the bench, then there might be a chance.'

Having posted a 100% record from their opening three games, United must avoid the stutter which followed a similar start 12 months ago.

Although it is almost 17 years since Tottenham last beat the Red Devils on enemy territory, Martin Jol's side have secured draws on their previous two visits and could count themselves unlucky not to have done better on both occasions.

Carrick's appearance against his former club so soon after his £18.6million move from White Hart Lane adds extra spice to the fixture, which is likely to be played in front of a record crowd for a United game at Old Trafford.