Hargreaves' return put back to 2007

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The Independent Online

The England midfielder Owen Hargreaves may not be back in action as soon as expected after complications with his broken leg.

The Bayern Munich player, a transfer target for Manchester United last summer, broke his fibula in the 2-1 defeat to Arminia Bielefeld in September. He has recently stepped up his recovery and was hoping to be back in first-team contention before the turn of the year. But the club have announced that Hargreaves' leg has not healed as well had been hoped and he must now rest for a further fortnight.

That means he is unlikely to feature before the Bundesliga's winter break, putting question marks over another possible bid from United. It also remains to be seen if he would be fit for England's next match, a friendly against Spain at Old Trafford on 7 February.

Should Hargreaves end up at Old Trafford he will be joining a club in "fantastic shape", according to the outgoing commercial director, Andy Anson.

As a lifelong United fan, who has previously said that working for the club was "a dream come true", Anson took many observers by surprise last month when he announced his intention to resign. Coming on the same day that the finance director, Nick Humby, also tendered his resignation, the move was seen as a sign all was not well in the United camp following the Glazer family's £790m takeover.

Some fans' groups opposed to the Glazers' involvement called on Anson and Humby to come clean about life under the new owners, who they argue have plunged the club into unmanageable debt. Yet Anson, who yesterday confirmed he will become the new chief executive of ATP Europe - the body which runs the men's tennis tour - insists that there is nothing to tell.

"Manchester United is in fantastic shape, both commercially and on the pitch," he said. "It is a good time to be at the club and I can assure everyone it will be around for a long time yet. No one should have any worries about that.

"I will certainly be sad to leave because it was a dream to get this job. But I am very focused at being successful in my career. I wanted a bigger, more autonomous role - and this is it."

Anson is due to leave United at the beginning of February and will take up his new job two months later. He has encountered turbulent times during his three years at Old Trafford, and was at one stage voted off the club's board when the controversy over the Glazers' buyout reached its height.

"We have ridden out the storm with great success," Anson said. "The performances on the pitch combined with the commercial deals we have done mean everything is rosy."

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