Hargreaves return helps United cope with Scholes injury

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The Independent Football

After one false start, Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping super-charged midfielder Owen Hargreaves can make a quick getaway off the Premier League grid at Old Trafford tomorrow.

Hargreaves has managed only three appearances since his £18million summer arrival from Bayern Munich.

The England international struggled to shake off a tendinitis problem that wrecked virtually his entire pre-season campaign and although the 26-year-old did eventually return to action in the Manchester derby defeat at Eastlands in August, it was not long before he was forced to have an injection Ferguson would have preferred was not required.

Happily, in the week Paul Scholes picked up his own knee injury that will need a second scan on Monday to determine the extent of the damage, Hargreaves is available to step into the breach against Middlesbrough and finally show the United faithful what he can do.

"Owen is a different player to anyone else we have got," said Ferguson.

"He has fantastic speed and sees danger very well. He is a fantastic addition to our squad.

"Of course he has been frustrated. He came for a big fee and has only played three games, which is not what he is here for.

"But he is back now, and if he stays back, that is terrific news for us and only gives us a better chance of doing well."

Monday promises to be a big day on the scan front for Ferguson, with Scholes and Michael Carrick due to be assessed.

While United are hopeful Carrick will be given the green light to resume training after dislocating his elbow against Roma earlier this month, putting him in contention to face Arsenal on November 3, Scholes' situation is slightly more complex.

"It is a strange one," said Ferguson.

"Paul just felt a little quirk in his knee when he turned in training on Monday.

"We sent him for a scan but it did not show the problem clearly, so we are sending him to another specialist on Monday to try and find out what the damage is and how to deal with it. Hopefully, it is not going to be a long one."

If Hargreaves does start as expected, he is likely to team up with another new-boy in the United engine room, Brazilian teenager Anderson.

Eventually, the Red Devils are due to pay FC Porto £17million for the player but in his early weeks at Old Trafford it was difficult to understand why Ferguson felt he was worth the money.

Yet, initially against Wigan and Aston Villa, then in Kiev on Tuesday, Anderson has started to show an impressive maturity, with his manager particularly impressed by one aspect of his game.

"The thing that has impressed us all is his knowledge," said Ferguson. "I noticed him the other night directing players who were much older than him. That is a nice sight to see from a young lad of 19, considering his English is not perfect.

"He missed the pre-season because of the Copa America, so it took him some time to get his fitness levels up. But he is there now.

"We knew there would be a time when we had to see what he is capable of. Maybe, because of the injuries, that time has come a bit earlier than we might have expected. But he has taken to the job very well."

With Patrice Evra confirming his fitness after suffering a calf strain in the warm-up prior to Tuesday's win in the Ukraine, a couple of changes are expected at least as United look to maintain their amazing recent scoring record of 12 goals in three games.

Middlesbrough, with just three points and three goals in five away trips so far this season, would appear to be the perfect opponents as United look to leapfrog Arsenal ahead of the Gunners' testing trip to Liverpool.

Yet the Teessiders have succumbed on only one of their last six league visits to Old Trafford, so Ferguson is acutely aware nothing can be taken for granted.

However, what he does not expect is a repeat of the 'cheat' allegations and the subsequent persecution of Cristiano Ronaldo by Boro which culminated in James Morrison being sent off for taking a wild swipe at the winger during the latter stages of the FA Cup sixth round replay in March.

"Middlesbrough got a bit paranoid about Cristiano last year but these things usually die," said Ferguson.

"It is very unusual for grudges to be held in club football these days and I do not expect Middlesbrough to be that way."

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