John Terry's chances of regaining the England captaincy were further improved last night when Manchester United effectively ruled Rio Ferdinand out of consideration for the European Championship qualifier against Wales on Saturday week.
Any change could then become permanent. The vice-captain Steven Gerrard, who led the side in Ferdinand's absence for the first three internationals of the season, is out for a month after surgery for a groin injury.
When both players missed the friendly in Denmark in February, Frank Lampard took the armband, which was later handed to Ashley Cole and Gareth Barry while Terry was ignored.
However, Fabio Capello has admitted that he is considering a change of heart after previously implying that Terry's ban would remain until the manager left next year.
It was imposed 13 months ago because of Terry's alleged affair with the former fiancée of Wayne Bridge. Ferdinand was promoted from vice-captain but missed the World Cup and has only been fit for two of six matches this season. He has not played for United since 1 February.
Ferguson said: "He has been doing a lot of running and he'll probably be ready to return after the internationals but I wouldn't have thought it would be before that. I don't think it would be wise [to go with England] as he hasn't played for us for something like five weeks."
Reinstating Terry as captain would cause similar division of opinion as the original decision, when Capello was praised for his decisiveness in sacking the Chelsea captain during a 12-minute conversation at Wembley.
Over the past few months, Capello has softened his stance from "If I remain as manager I think not" to "We must think about everything".
Terry has also expressed his anger at being ignored when the armband is handed round several different players, as happened in Denmark and in the friendly against Egypt last year.
The new Football Association chairman David Bernstein is understood to be happy for Capello to make the decision without interference and the FA's disinclination to deny the story yesterday will be taken as a further indication that it will happen.