United defender Collins relishing battle with Smith, and backs young centre-half partner Maguire to prosper

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Neill Collins is looking forward to a physical battle with old foe Alan Smith when Sheffield United face MK Dons on Saturday.

Collins - who, barring a late injury or illness will once again partner Harry Maguire at the heart of United’s rearguard - will once again go head-to-head with MK Dons striker Smith, who is approaching the twilight of a career that has seen him represent Leeds, Manchester United, Newcastle and England.

“I’ve had plenty of battles with Alan over the years,” Collins told the Telegraph.

“I came up against him a few times when he was at Newcastle, and he’s always up for games in Yorkshire when he comes back to his homeland.

“You’ve got to respect him and the career he’s had. He’s played for some fantastic clubs and he could have retired by now, but he’s still going strong so credit to him.

“The young boy Patrick Bamford [on loan from Chelsea] has scored a few goals, too, so MK Dons certainly have players capable of hurting us.”

United’s only injury concern for the meeting with Karl Robinson’s charges is Febian Brandy, who was withdrawn from last weekend’s defeat at Bradford City with a tight hamstring.

The former Walsall man hasn’t trained all week and is rated as a severe doubt by United manager David Weir, who is under no illusions that his side will be in for a tough test against one of the best footballing sides in League One.

“Everyone knows MK Dons play some nice stuff,” Collins added.

“But people like Smith are also more than capable of knocking you about, too, so you have to be doubly wary.

“As an experienced pro, he knows a few tricks of the trade but luckily, so do I! So it should be a good battle.”

Collins, meanwhile, has no concerns about the experienced Smith attempting to target his fellow centre half Maguire.

“Have you seen the size of Harry?” Collins smiled.

“That’s one thing he definitely doesn’t have a problem with, the physical side of the game.

“He’s a big, strong lad, so he’ll have no problems in that department.

“I’ll probably have a word or two with him before the game, but he’ll be fine.

“Harry has got a fantastic attitude for a young player, and his knowledge of football, and players he’s played against, is amazing.

“He’s played over 100 games now so he’s coming across these players for the second and third time, and I am sure that most strikers are more concerned about him than he is about them.”

Maguire, still only 20 years of age, will make his 116th appearance for United against MK Dons, and Collins added: “He’s fantastic to play against.

“I’ve played with him more than anyone else in my career, and I think we know each other’s games inside-out and we compliment each other well.

“Long may it continue.”