Foster forced to margins at United

England have been dealt a defensive boost that they badly needed ahead of the World Cup squad announcement with news that Wes Brown has returned to full training. Ben Foster, however, another player who had seemed a genuine England prospect, appears increasingly marginalised at Manchester United.

Foster, who only six months ago was featuring in Fabio Capello's side, is spending periods of training at Carrington alone while United's established top two for the No 1 jersey – Edwin van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak – participate in the club's main session, including five-a-side games. The former United keeper Gary Bailey has become the latest former pro to urge Foster to seek a new start – on loan at Birmingham City if the opportunity occurs to succeed Joe Hart – and insists that the mistakes which have seen him fall to third choice had not made him a "laughing stock".

Bailey was impressed by what he saw when he called in to observe United's keepers at the Carrington training complex two weeks ago. "I think he has got everything," Bailey said. "I was sat there minding my own business and collecting a few stray balls but he made one save that forced me to applaud.

"It is amazing and sad to see a lad who was United's No 1 and an England keeper now languishing as third choice with no chance of going to South Africa – and he couldn't get a game in the practice session. But I didn't see a 'damaged goods' player. I didn't see a keeper lacking in confidence. I still saw a guy with great talent and ability who has had a setback. He hasn't become a bad goalkeeper."

Van der Sar has signed another one-year contract at United while Foster has played only once since his run of games in the side ended after United's 1-0 Champions League defeat at home to Besiktas on 25 November. As yet, Sir Alex Ferguson has been unwilling to consider a loan for the 27-year-old.

It is unclear whether Brown will feature in Saturday's squad for the visit of Tottenham but he will be back in first-team action this season in readiness for the World Cup. He has not played since United's 1-0 win at Wolves on 6 March.

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