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By ESPN Staff

Neville hoping for Larsson to extend United stay

Gary Neville is hoping Manchester United can persuade Henrik Larsson to remain at Old Trafford for the remainder of the season.

At the moment, Larsson is due to return to Helsingborg on March 12, although Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed a hope the veteran Swede will be allowed to take part in the European Treaty centenary game at Old Trafford the following night.

Ferguson is adamant he has no wish to force the issue with Helsingborg, being only too aware of the favour that has been done to United in allowing Larsson to join the Red Devils during the Swedish off season in the first place.

However, Neville knows the impact Larsson has had at United goes way beyond the two goals the 35-year-old currently has to his name, which is why he hopes the forward will stay where he is until May.

When asked on MUTV whether Larsson leaving on March 12 was the last thing his team-mates wanted, Neville said: 'Of course it is.

'Forwards win you football matches. They are crucially important to any team.

'If you do not have good centre-forwards then you are in trouble.

'We have three or four good forwards here. It is one of the reasons we are doing so well.

'They are all different but they all work hard and want to play for the team, which is important.'

Larsson's arrival has been particularly timely given both Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been struggling with minor niggles recently.

Saha was able to start last weekend's win over Charlton, although it would be no surprise if Larsson returned for Saturday's eagerly-awaited FA Cup fifth-round clash with Reading at Old Trafford.

'Henrik has been fantastic for us,' said Neville.

'It's not just him filling a position, it is his work-rate, attitude and movement.

'I just hope we can keep him for as long as possible.'

Meanwhile, Neville is set to face old friend David Beckham for the first time next month after the former England skipper was confirmed as part of Marcello Lippi's Europe XI for the charity clash, which also marks the 50th anniversary of United's entry into European competition.

Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have also agreed to play and while stars from Arsenal and Chelsea will not be released for the prestigious occasion because of Premiership commitments the following night, Ferguson is expecting a star-studded evening at the Theatre of Dreams.

'Thirty-three invitations have gone out to all the top players in Europe and hopefully we will get a really good side,' said Ferguson.

'We will play a strong squad and Marcello is quite positive about most of Italy's World Cup-winning side being available, so it should be a fabulous night.'