Nemanja Vidic wants to make up for lost time in his injury-disrupted season, just as Rio Ferdinand has been sidelined again.
Sir Alex Ferguson has not been able to name his first-choice central defenders in the same team together since the end of October but had been expecting to rectify that against West Ham last night.
But, while Vidic put in what keeper Ben Foster claimed was a man-of-the-match performance for Manchester United in a 3-0 win that allowed them to close on title favourites Chelsea, Ferdinand did no better than board the team bus.
His journey to Old Trafford was purely to pick up his car before driving home to reflect on a recurrence of his long-standing back problem that would appear certain to cost Ferdinand the chance of captaining England next week.
While Ferguson was not asked about Ferdinand's chances of facing Egypt at Wembley on Wednesday, he has already ruled him out of Sunday's Carling Cup final and stated the 31-year-old will be out for "a couple of games" at least.
Given Ferdinand's past history and the huge number of important games United have looming over the next few weeks, it would appear highly unlikely Ferguson would let the £29.1million man put himself at risk on the international stage no matter how much personal importance is attached to the fixture.
That would leave Fabio Capello to name his provisional World Cup squad in May knowing Ferdinand has featured in only four out of 13 internationals, which is hardly an encouraging statistic for a man supposed to be replacing John Terry as national captain.
It is a debate that has nothing to do with United, of course.
With Ferdinand missing again, far more important is Vidic's return.
In addition to Foster's plaudits, Ferguson hailed the Serbian's performance against West Ham's imposing strikeforce as "majestic". And Vidic, about whose future so much has been written recently, is glad to be back.
"It is nice to be back," said the Serbian, who was making his first appearance of 2010 after suffering a nerve problem in his leg.
"It's a long time since I last played and I didn't feel any reaction, so I am very happy.
"This year has been very frustrating. When I finished last season, I thought this one would be even better.
"But I missed pre-season, then had this injury and have been out for another two months recently.
"I hope it is all in the past now and I can look forward to the next few games."
Quite apart from Wayne Rooney, whose brace last night took him to 27 goals for the season - only 15 fewer than Cristiano Ronaldo managed in his stellar 2007-08 season that saw him crowned FIFA World Player of the Year - Vidic could also turn out to be a pivotal figure.
Whether Ferguson is willing to pitch the Serbian into Sunday's Carling Cup final against Aston Villa at the expense of Wes Brown or Jonny Evans is another matter.
More likely, the Scot will view the showpiece as a reward for those who have featured earlier in the competition, or stepped in while more senior figures have been missing.
In addition to Brown and Evans, Rafael should play having missed last year's final against Tottenham through injury, while Tomasz Kuszczak may well get an opportunity in goal ahead of Foster, the penalty shoot-out hero against Spurs 12 months ago, who played for the first time in three months last night.
That would leave Vidic to return for the trip to Wolves on March 6 as United continue a title fight he insists is not beyond them, even though Chelsea retain a match in hand in addition to their extra point.
"We believe we can win it," said Vidic.
"Confidence is a big word and we feel we can do it, even though they could be four points in front of us with their game in hand.
"We have some big games to play away from home against teams who are trying to survive and always raise their game when they meet United.
"But Chelsea still have to come to our ground in April and, with some big players to come back from injury, we can still get there."Reuse content