Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has returned to full training and could be back in the team for Wednesday's Champions League home game against Cluj.
The Serb defender has been out since mid-September with a knee injury which required surgery and was expected to rule him out until Christmas.
However, the 31-year-old's recuperation has progressed quicker than expected and he could make his return to first-team action at Old Trafford next week.
"It would be nice for him to play on Wednesday," said United boss Alex Ferguson. "We are not afraid of that.
"He has started training, which is good news.
"He has not been involved in the real competitive part but he has done OK.
"For the last year-and-a-half he has probably only played 10 or 12 games (13) or something like that.
"The best way is for us to leave it to 'Vida' himself. He has the experience to know what is best for him and when the time is right for him to come back into the team.
"He would be short of match practice but I wouldn't be averse to playing him on Wednesday."
Should the United skipper come through unscahed on Wednesday, that would raise the prospect of him featuring against neighbours and title rivals Mancheser City in their Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday December 9.
In Vidic's absence, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans have been United's main central partnership at the back, although Michael Carrick has been called upon to drop into defence on occasion.
The midfielder was pleased to see his team earn a clean sheet in the 1-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday, the first time they had done so in seven league games, since their 3-0 win at Newcastle on October 7.
"We got the clean sheet and it is something to build on because the performance needs to be better," he said. "It was far from a classic. We were not at our best and the free-flowing football we want to play didn't quite happen.
"We had a spell, about a year or two ago, when we were starting games really well and killing teams off really early. We want to get back to that because Old Trafford is a difficult place to play when you go a goal down.
"We want to make it that way because going a goal down has made things a lot harder for us than they should have been.
"Keeping a clean sheet gives us something to build on in the future, that's the biggest positive we can take."