Nani set for early return

MANCHESTER - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has in three days gone from scratching his head as he scrabbled together a makeshift midfield to grappling with an abundance of riches.

Winger Nani's speedier than expected recovery from a leg injury and the availability of Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia has come just in time for Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Olympique Marseille at Old Trafford.

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Portuguese Nani trained with the first team on Monday and will play a part in the game despite Ferguson previously ruling him out after he sustained a gash in a tackle by Liverpool's Jamie Carragher just over a week ago.

"He trained on Sunday also, he and Michael Carrick, which is a better situation than I had at the weekend," Ferguson told a news conference, referring to Saturday's FA Cup win over Arsenal where midfield injuries forced him to field seven defenders.

"Both will be involved tomorrow."

It was unclear whether Ferguson planned to name Nani in the starting line-up or whether fellow winger Valencia was in the running for the battle with the French champions which resumes after a 0-0 draw in Marseille last month.

Valencia made his first appearance for six months on Saturday following a broken ankle and put in a good performance when he came on for the second half of the 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory.

"It was a fantastic bonus for us to get 45 minutes from Antonio on Saturday," said Ferguson. "The question is whether we can play him from the start or continue as we did on Saturday as a substitute.

"It's a great selection problem for me."

HARGREAVES TRAINING

Ferguson said his team's pursuit of three trophies - the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League - would be boosted by others also close to returning, such as midfielder Park Ji-sung who could be fit for Saturday's game against Bolton Wanderers.

Even injury-cursed Owen Hargreaves, who has made only 39 appearances since moving to United from Bayern Munich for 17 million pounds in 2007, could still feature this term.

"Hargreaves started training this morning. Hopefully, you never know, we may have him available towards the end of the season," said Ferguson.

"It doesn't matter how many players have been injured in the past, the important thing is to have them all available for the run-in. Hopefully if we can do that it will definitely increase our chances."

Defender and captain Nemanja Vidic missed training on Monday after picking up a knock against Arsenal but should be fit for Tuesday.

United should feel confident against a team who have not been in the last eight since winning the 1993 Champions League as the English side are unbeaten in all competitions at home this season and have never lost to French opposition at Old Trafford.

However when asked by a French reporter whether that confidence had led to United playing for a draw in Marseille, Ferguson did not mince his words.

"I thought Marseille went for a 0-0, I must admit," he said. "Maybe they're the ones that are confident."


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