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Rio could return for Fulham clash

Injury-plagued Rio Ferdinand has given Manchester United a timely boost by returning to training just two weeks after manager Sir Alex Ferguson had effectively ruled him out for the rest of the season.

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Ferdinand, 32, has been out of action since picking up a calf strain in the warm-up prior to United's shock defeat at Wolves at the start of February.

After making slow progress in his recovery, Ferguson admitted the club were "not looking at this as a short-term situation" but the former England skipper returned to training on Wednesday and, although he is likely to miss the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea, he has a chance of featuring when United welcome Fulham to Old Trafford on April 9.

"He's started training, he trained this morning but I think you know the Friday morning session is not excessive, it's just a light session for the players," said Ferguson.

"I could bring him back tomorrow and give him a few days off afterwards but I think he's more likely to be fit for the Fulham game."

Ferguson may ultimately conclude it is worth taking a gamble given none of his other injured defenders will be back to face Chelsea, whilst a few may be available for Fulham.

Rafael, John O'Shea and Wes Brown could all tackle Mark Hughes' men. But none of that trio will make the trip to Stamford Bridge, when Jonny Evans will be available as he serves a three-match domestic ban.

None of this helps his team selection for Saturday, when Ferguson accepts filling the right-back slot is going to be a major issue.

"We have to solve that and find the right solution,'' he said.

It seems almost certain Brazilian Fabio will fill the void, with Chris Smalling partnering skipper Nemanja Vidic in central defence.

At least Ferguson finally has options in midfield. Park Ji-Sung could make his first start since he left for Asian Cup duty in Qatar, whilst Anderson is likely to be on the bench at Upton Park after recovering from a knee injury it was initially suggested would rule him out for the season.

However, Darren Fletcher is still troubled by a virus, whilst Owen Hargreaves' United career now looks to be at an end following the shoulder problem he picked up in training.

"It is another huge setback for the lad,'' said Ferguson.

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