Chris Smalling is determined Manchester United should make the most of the packed Christmas programme.

United head to Fulham on Wednesday night looking to maintain the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City.

After overhauling their neighbours for four hours on Sunday, the Red Devils could seize the advantage on New Year's Eve should they continue winning ways as Roberto Mancini's men are not in action until the first day of 2012.

But Smalling's former club have to be dealt with first at Craven Cottage before Wigan head to Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

"The players always look forward to this time of year because there are plenty of games," said Smalling.

"We are used to the demands of so many games, so it is a big opportunity to pick up a lot of points - and we are aiming for the maximum.

"Christmas can be a hindrance on some and even make or break you in terms of kicking on. But this is a period where we really need to show everybody we mean business."

Smalling spent two years at Fulham after then manager Roy Hodgson plucked him from the obscurity of non-league at Maidstone.

Within two seasons, the 21-year-old had secured a £10million move to United, since when he has won a Premier League title and broken into Fabio Capello's England squad, featuring in the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales in September.

But Smalling has not forgotten how it became possible and while Hodgson is no longer around, he will greet some familiar faces on Wednesday evening.

"Without Roy Hodgson giving me my chance there I wouldn't be here," he said.

"I had a big two years there and it is a time I look back upon fondly.

"My first year was about finding my feet, the second was about showcasing what I can do.

"It'll be nice to go back and see a few of the players and play back at the Cottage."

The surprise return of Javier Hernandez from an ankle injury at QPR offers Sir Alex Ferguson a further attacking option, which provides the opportunity to drop Wayne Rooney back into a midfield role should the United boss opt to make a change.

Meanwhile, the Red Devils hierarchy have become increasingly vexed at the statements of agent Jose Irribaran about Argentina winger Nicolas Gaitan.

When Irribaran claimed on Tuesday that United were in talks with Benfica about buying the winger, the patience of chief executive David Gill finally snapped.

It has been stressed by senior Red Devils officials that Ferguson has expressed no interest in Gaitan, will not be doing so in the future and the chances of the player ending up at Old Trafford are zero.

Fulham manager Martin Jol has warned Barclays Premier League rivals the best is yet to come from summer signing Bryan Ruiz.

The Costa Rica international moved to Craven Cottage from FC Twente in a deal worth a reported £10.6million on transfer deadline day.

Ruiz cut a frustrated figure during his first few months in west London as he struggled to reach full fitness, although he is now beginning to show his true worth.

The 26-year-old scored an exquisite scooped effort in the 2-0 defeat of Bolton at the weekend and Jol believes there is more to come.

"Ruiz will be an important player for us," Fulham manager Jol said ahead of the United game.

"If you talk about the season after next season it would be a bit late.

"Hopefully he can show his productivity in the next couple of months.

"I think he's got the same [skill] as [Mousa] Dembele, but I won't say that he's a crowd pleaser because I don't think that they care about pleasing the crowd.

"I think he will please himself if he plays well and he knows that he can play well.

"He was very disappointed that he couldn't show that in the first couple of months here but he's happy that he is here and he can show the people.

"For me its important if you look at his fitness.

"We make assessments every week and he's getting better and better and he's in the top three with his stats so that is good for him.

"Hopefully he can stay fit because that is the main thing.

"If a player is fit he can work for the team and he can make the difference."

Ruiz's recent performances will likely see him line up against Sir Alex Ferguson's side at Craven Cottage on Wednesday evening.

The attacker scored one and provided an assist for Clint Dempsey against the Trotters.

"He (Dempsey) is an automatic choice," Jol added.

"That's why it was very good to see [Kerim] Frei because you can get a younger player who can push the older player.

"But Clint is always one of the first names on the sheet.

"If he is very selfish I think he is capable of getting 20 but he wouldn't get his assists any more."

Fulham will welcome Bobby Zamora back for the match after he missed Saturday's match with a medial ligament injury, although Steve Sidwell, Simon Davies and Mark Schwarzer are out.