Vermaelen nears Arsenal return

LONDON - Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen has declared himself fit for a return to first team action after nearly eight months out with an ankle injury.

The Belgian centre-back played a full game for the reserve team on Thursday having recovered from an achilles problem picked up on international duty in September.

"I'm fit at the moment, I feel great and, in training, I don't feel any problems," the 25-year-old told the Premier League club's website on Friday.

Having been left out of Arsenal's squad to play Manchester United on Sunday, Vermaelen said it is now up to manager Arsene Wenger to choose when he will return.

"It's up to the boss, he makes the decisions. I'm I hope I will be back in the squad soon and that is my target," he said.

Third-placed Arsenal trail league leaders United by nine points with four games remaining.