Ferdinand close to Manchester United return

Rio Ferdinand could return to action for Manchester United immediately after the forthcoming international break.

Seven days ago, Sir Alex Ferguson suggested it would be the end of September before the England skipper could contemplate a comeback after suffering a freak knee ligament injury in training prior to the World Cup.

But Ferdinand has been spurred on to quicken his recovery and after getting himself back onto the training ground this week, Ferguson is looking for a game at some point over the next fortnight to test his fitness.

"Rio hadn't done anything football-wise when I spoke last week," said the United boss.

"When he read what I said maybe it gave him a kick. But he has come in and trained this week and done fantastic. He will train with the reserves today.

"He won't be involved tomorrow of course but we have to try and think when we can get a game with him in the next two weeks he is that close."

United's reserves do have a Manchester Senior Cup tie with Oldham on Wednesday, September 1 which would fit the bill, although Ferguson does have the option of arranging a friendly behind-closed-doors given the number of players at his disposal who will not be side-tracked by international commitments over the next fortnight.

However, Ferdinand's presence on the Carrington training ground is bound to be a welcome sight given his recent problems, even if the Red Devils chief accepts he needs to take it steady with the 31-year-old, who is hoping to be in contention for a Premier League meeting with Everton that has now been re-arranged for Saturday, September 11, plus the matches against Rangers and Liverpool that follow immediately afterwards.

"You need to be aware of knee ligament injuries but at the moment everything is fine," said Ferguson.

The same situation applies with Brazilian midfielder Anderson, who has been out since February following cruciate ligament surgery.

Although the 22-year-old returned to action in the reserves on Tuesday and then reported for training the next day, Ferguson is wary of expecting too much, too soon.

"You have to be aware he has been out for a long time," he said.

"You have to monitor his progress a lot more carefully.

"But he is keen. He trained on Wednesday. He wanted to train after the game on Tuesday. That shows the enthusiasm he has got."