Silvestre dreaming of return to battle for United

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The Independent Football

Mikaël Silvestre admits that his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury has been "boring" and he cannot wait to return to action with Manchester United.

The French defender, 30, has made only three appearances this season, including the FA Community Shield against Chelsea at Wembley.

It has been a slow and frustrating road to recovery for the former Internazionale player, who missed the end of last season following a shoulder injury suffered against Lille at Old Trafford in the Champions League.

Silvestre has been allowed to do some fitness work away from the club back in France, and also took a holiday with his family to the United States.

The defender feels he is "more than halfway" through his recovery programme after being forced out of the Everton game on 15 September, and he cannot wait to start building up his sharpness back on the pitch again.

"I have been doing five, six hours a day of rehab since I got injured," Silvestre said. "It is a bit boring and very tiring because I only stay in the gym and don't get to go on the field. I'm not even running outside yet, only in the pool. I'm not even touching the ball. So it is very boring. It is a long process and a long time without enjoying myself on the field."

Having done some sight-seeing around Manhattan and the "usual stuff for tourists", the United defender is fully focused on getting back into competitive action as soon as possible to help United as they battle for honours at home and in Europe.

"I know if I come back to my best then I will be able to play again because there are so many games. You always get an opportunity to play," said Silvestre, who expects to be close to a return by March and to be in contention for France's Euro 2008 squad.

"I know I will have to play in the reserves first, at least one or two games. Play 45 minutes, then an hour and a half. You can't go straight back to the first team. That's what happens usually, it will be the same for me."

Silvestre, who is involved with the Unesco Schools for Hope programme to help underprivileged children in Africa, admits he has been "surprised" to see Arsenal emerge as United's main rivals this season, but expects Sir Alex Ferguson's men to come through strongly in the second half of the campaign.

He said: "I am surprised to see Arsenal doing so well, like a lot of people, simply because they are a young team. They are young, but if you look at them they all have good experience in the Premier League."

Silvestre continued: "We are again competing for the championship. I think the club has [made] some great signings to improve the team, which gives us a lot of confidence to win the league and the Champions League. The team is the same as last year, plus new quality: [Carlos] Tevez, Nani, [Owen] Hargreaves."

United comfortably moved into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win at Aston Villa last weekend. The Red Devils return to their battle to overhaul the League leaders Arsenal this weekend, when they take on Newcastle at Old Trafford. The French club Lyons stand between United and a place in the last eight of the Champions League when the tournament resumes next month.

Ferguson intends to mount a sustained assault on all fronts in 2008. "I am looking for success in Europe as well as at home," he said. "We have the players and the back-up to do it," he said on the club's website. "We are a more mature team this season in terms of Europe and we have played some successful and entertaining stuff. We've lost a couple of games in the league, but our consistency overall has been very good."