Manchester United have said that Owen Hargreaves has still not returned to his club from the care of a surgeon in the United States – a development which underlines that his inclusion in the club's Premier League squad may not provide any real reassurance about his chances of playing again.
Ferguson has not had to omit any members of his first team squad by including Hargreaves – United have actually taken up only 23 of the 25 places available to them – and by doing so has at least kept alive some prospect of Hargreaves renewing his career at United, for whom he has made only one brief substitute's appearance in the last two years. The 29-year-old's inclusion in the squad has been accompanied by reports from some quarters that he is back in training at Carrington.
But United have made it clear that the he is still in Colorado, under the care of surgeon Richard Steadman. Hargreaves is "still receiving treatment in the US for a tendonitis problem that has limited him to one substitute appearance since September 2008," the club said. Ferguson has been either unable or unwilling to offer any sense as to whether Hargreaves is on the mend after his latest period under the care of Steadman. "Nope", was his answer on the subject when asked more than two weeks ago whether the defensive midfielder was back.
Meanwhile, the Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan defended the decision to allow the DW Stadium to be used as a holding station for 3,000 Rangers fans before this month's Champions League group stage match at Old Trafford.
Whelan said that "the last time Rangers fans came to Wigan they were absolutely brilliant" – though soon after he spoke, all but one of the 12 Rangers fans who took part in what was described in a court as Manchester's worst scenes of destruction "since the blitz" – before the 2008 Uefa Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg – were told they were to be jailed. Scott McSeveney was jailed for three and a half years at Manchester Crown Court for violent disorder and an assault on PC John Goodwin, who was attacked by fans before the game.
The officer was only saved after another Rangers fan, Sharon Gibson, lay across him while her boyfriend shouted: "You are letting the team down!"
Mark Stoddart, 27, was jailed for two and a half years for violent disorder and assaulting another officer, PC Mick Regan, and also given an eight-year football banning order.