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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Pardew defends Ben Arfa French rehab

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew insists his decision to let Hatem Ben Arfa continue his rehabilitation from a broken leg in France is proving to be the right one for the midfielder.

• Pardew still open to Ireland

Ben Arfa, 24, has been moving towards full fitness after almost five months out following the double fracture he suffered against Manchester City in October, stepping up his recovery back at the French FA's headquarters in Clairefontaine.

Pardew's decision to allow Ben Arfa to return to France has been questioned by some, who feel that Newcastle medical staff should be dictating the playmaker's rehabilitation.

But the Magpies boss says the £6 million January signing is being closely monitored by Toon officials and that being stationed in France has been beneficial for Ben Arfa, notably because he has had the opportunity to be with his family during the recent political unrest in Tunisia, his father's homeland.

"We've questioned whether to bring him back at times and have his treatment here and get him embedded into the city a little bit more," Pardew said. "But I think the personal issue he had with what happened in Tunisia with his family and him, as a person, we just think it's better that he stays there.

"It's nothing to do with the French national team or anything like that - you have to take on board that he's a foreign player, newly arrived in the country and the injury happened so early for him, would you really want to be stuck here with a broken leg with people he doesn't really know? He's been brought up there, he knows the doctor and everything else.

"It's a moral debate that me and the club doctor have had - shall we bring him back? - and we just keep coming to the same decision - let's just leave him there, he seems to be progressing well. Other than being in the city and getting used to the restaurants and God knows what else, there's no other benefit for us at the moment."

"He's on constant attention at Clairefontaine, he seems to be enjoying the treatment and everything else and our doctor travels over and makes sure. The facilities there are absolutely brilliant. I've always said with that kind of injury, and getting confidence back, I still think it will be the back end of April, if at all this season. If I get him back, it's a bonus for me."

Pardew is missing several key players at the moment, with Joey Barton, Jose Enrique, Stephen Ireland and Jonas Gutierrez all ruled out of next weekend's trip to Stoke.

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