Gary Neville is hoping Manchester United can persuade Henrik Larsson to remain at Old Trafford for the remainder of the season. Larsson is due to return to Helsingborg on 12 March, although Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed a hope the Swede will be allowed to take part in the European Treaty centenary game at Old Trafford the following night.
Ferguson, the United manager, is adamant he has no wish to force the issue with Helsingborg, being only too aware of the favour that has been done to United in allowing Larsson to join them during the Swedish winter break in the first place.
However, Neville knows the impact Larsson has had at United goes way beyond the two goals the 35-year-old has to his name, which is why he hopes the forward will stay where he is until May.
When asked on MUTV whether Larsson leaving on 12 March was the last thing his team-mates wanted, Neville said: "Of course it is. Forwards win you football matches. They are crucially important to any team.
"If you do not have good centre-forwards then you are in trouble. We have three, or four good forwards here. It is one of the reasons we are doing so well. They are all different, but they all work hard and want to play for the team, which is important."
Larsson's arrival has been particularly timely given that Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been struggling with minor niggles recently. Saha was able to start last Saturday's 2-0 home win over Charlton, although it would be no surprise if Larsson returned for this Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie with Reading at Old Trafford.
"Henrik has been fantastic for us," Neville said. "It's not just him filling a position, it is his work-rate, attitude and movement. I just hope we can keep him for as long as possible."
Neville is set to face his old friend David Beckham for the first time next month after the former England captain was confirmed as part of Marcello Lippi's Europe XI for the charity game, which also marks the 50th anniversary of United's entry into European competition.
The Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have also agreed to play and while top players from Arsenal and Chelsea will not be released for the prestigious occasion because of Premiership commitments the following night, Ferguson is expecting a star-studded evening at the Theatre of Dreams.
"Thirty-three invitations have gone out to all the top players in Europe and hopefully we will get a really good side," Ferguson said. "We will play a strong squad and Marcello is quite positive about most of Italy's World Cup-winning side being available, so it should be a fabulous night."Reuse content