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Manchester United say Owen Hargreaves is close to return

Owen Hargreaves could be back playing in four weeks. The Manchester United midfielder has been out of action for a year having undergone operations on both knees to solve his tendinitis problems.

Hargreaves has done his rehabilitation work in the United States under the guidance of Dr Richard Steadman, the renowned knee surgeon, but returned to United's Carrington training complex earlier this week.

Sir Alex Ferguson says the 28-year-old will not do any ball work for a while but the United manager is optimistic that, if all goes to plan, Hargreaves could be back playing next month.

"I feel it will take us four weeks to get him into the rhythm of training again and get to the point of match play," Ferguson said. "Normally, when a player has been out for that length of time he is helped by the fact he is doing his rehabilitation with other players. Because he did it on his own in the USA, it is not easy.

"But he has the determination and resilience to see it through. He is now back with us and hopefully the boy gets a break and continues his progress without any further mishaps."

As Hargreaves' operation is rare, there must be some doubt over his chances of making a full recovery to the level that saw him win 42 caps for England, the last of which came against the USA in May last year. But Ferguson draws comfort from the number of players that have come back from cruciate knee ligament surgery, the latest being Joe Cole, of Chelsea.

"We don't see the fact he has been out a year as a handicap," Ferguson said. "Other players have been out a similar length of time. When Joe Cole came back on Wednesday you forget he was missing for nine months. It is achievable, particularly when they are young.

"He is not kicking a ball yet. The physio who attended to him over there will stay here for a week for the changeover. He and our physios are discussing exactly at what stage he is at but he should be into football training quite soon."

the times
Tags: club: manchester united, oh god please yes, owen hargreaves
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