Neville ready to get United back on track

Defender will be fit to steady ship in 'huge game' against Aston Villa
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The Independent Football

Gary Neville has declared himself fit and ready to help Manchester United get back on the championship trail. Neville has missed 11 matches with a groin injury but returned to action in a reserve-team game at Newcastle on Monday. The 34-year-old is now in contention to face Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday, with Porto to follow in a Champions League quarter-final at Old Trafford barely 48 hours later.

Neville is bound to be a bit rusty after so long out. But he is eager to help United get their campaign on track once more after successive defeats against Liverpool and Fulham prior to the international break.

"I have got the opportunity to be fit now and hopefully be available for Sunday, Tuesday and the other games we have coming up which are so vital for us," he said. "We need every player fit but obviously I have got to concentrate on myself and make sure I am ready."

United have seen a seven-point lead hacked down to one amid their mini slump, and with Liverpool in action before the Red Devils this weekend, Rafael Benitez's side could be top – having played two games more – before out-of-form Villa head to Old Trafford.

"It is a hugely important game for us," Neville said of the Villa game. "We know what we need to do and we need the crowd behind us. I don't think anyone will be underestimating the importance of the match. There are no more chances for us now. We need to start winning games and get back on a winning run."

Meanwhile, Villa's reserve goalkeeper Brad Guzan has vowed to increase the pressure on current number one Brad Friedel in the battle for a first-team spot.

Guzan took inspiration from his fellow American Friedel when he decided to try to make his mark in the Premier League. But that will not stop the 24-year-old, who signed from Chivas USA last summer, from trying to dislodge the ex-Blackburn player.

Guzan has already played for Villa in the Carling and Uefa Cups this season. He was in line to make his league debut at United on Sunday before Friedel's red card against Liverpool was rescinded by the Football Association.

Guzan said: "Seeing Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller come over here to England, be successful, and have such long careers inspired me to try and do the same. They were the first Americans to play in this country which was brilliant because the rest of the world never looks at Americans as footballers. What they have achieved is phenomenal.

"Brad has had a fantastic career and working with him can only be beneficial to me. But now I'm looking to play more games, to seize opportunities when they come along, and to keep moving forward."

Guzan added: "To play in the Uefa Cup was tremendous. There is a special buzz about European nights and to be part of that is something you never forget. I want to get better as a keeper and put Brad under pressure. I want to make it difficult for the manager week in and week out in terms of selection. If I can do that I will also be helping the team because it will make Brad better, myself better, and the team better."