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Fletcher cautious after United return

Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher is not expecting to slot straight back into first-team duties after recovering from a virus that has kept him out for nearly two months, with the Scotland captain insisting he will be happy to just "play some small part" in his side's run-in.

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Fletcher has been absent since United's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on March 6, but returned to action on Thursday night for United's reserves, playing 45 minutes in a goalless draw with Arsenal.

Whether the midfielder is thrown back in to face the Gunners' senior side on Sunday remains to be seen, but Fletcher's return to fitness gives United a timely boost ahead of seven days that will likely decide the fate of the Premier League title.

After a visit to Emirates Stadium this weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson's side face Schalke in the Champions League semi-final second leg before welcoming Chelsea to Old Trafford next Sunday.

Ferguson has previously indicated Fletcher would return immediately to his side when available but while the midfielder is keen to get back into the first-team picture, he insists he is not planning to rush into his comeback.

"That's nice to hear but the lads have done fantastic, it's going to be hard to get back in that team," Fletcher told MUTV. "We're in a great position with a month left and I want to give the manager another option and play some small part.

"It's great to be back and get some minutes under my belt. The plan was always just to play 45 minutes because I've been out for such a long time, I don't want to push too quickly and set myself back.

"It was a bad virus, originally it was supposed to be a week and it escalated. I lost a bit of weight and when you have to put the weight back on it's a slow process, and what should have been a couple of weeks ended up being a lot longer.''

On his chances of facing the Gunners, Fletcher added: "I'll see how I am. I don't want to rush it too quickly so I'll speak to the doctor and the manager, see how we're feeling and take it from there.''

One player who will be in contention to face Arsenal is Dimitar Berbatov, who will return after missing three games with a groin injury sustained in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City earlier this month.

"Dimitar is fit again,'' Ferguson said. "He had a slight groin strain but he has trained all week.''

United hold a six-point lead over Chelsea in the Premier League title race and the Scot feels the next two games will be pivotal.

"We are in a good position," he said. "I think two months ago people were looking at these two games, Arsenal and Chelsea, as league deciders and they probably are now.

"We are going into the game in good form. I can make changes on Sunday and Wednesday also, with the strong squad we have got. We don't do a lot of training right now, it is about recovery and getting the energy back into them."

Ferguson, meanwhile, has hailed his team's resilience as they chase success on two fronts. Marseille coach Didier Deschamps' claim, ahead of his side's Champions League meeting with United, that Ferguson's current vintage lack "fantasy" has clung to the team.

But Ferguson told Inside United magazine: "It's not as if we've been devoid of that. Some of the football we've seen from the players this season has been terrific.

"This team might not have the (Cristiano) Ronaldo factor, but they don't understand the word defeat. They're determined, gritty and very professional, and they've produced some great moments.

"We know we've got some hard games left. We look forward to the challenge, though. It's important to keep momentum going by winning games. That's vital. Draws don't come into it now, it's all about wins. We've got a big few games coming up and we need to win them."

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