Manchester United could be set for a triple dose of good news on the injury front with Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Brazilian full-back Rafael da Silva all due back in the next fortnight.
Ferdinand is first in line, with Sir Alex Ferguson confirming the England defender could return from a groin injury in next week's Champions League return against Porto.
The 30-year-old suffered a recurrence of the problem in the final moments of England's World Cup win over Ukraine last week and has already been ruled out of the Barclays Premier League trip to Sunderland.
But Ferdinand has an outside chance of featuring in Portugal next Wednesday as United look to advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League by becoming the first English side to win in Porto after Tuesday's draw at Old Trafford.
Ferguson also revealed Rafael has returned to training this week after an ankle injury that has kept him out since the end of January, with Brown not too far behind following a similar problem that has kept him out for most of the season.
"Rafael started training this week," said Ferguson. "He needs a few more days training but I would imagine he could be available for next weekend.
"Wes is not too far away either and will start football training next week."
With an FA Cup semi-final against Everton next Sunday, followed by a series of key Premier League games, even if United fail to beat Porto it would still be a major plus to have more defenders available, particularly as Jonny Evans is a major doubt for the Sunderland game after suffering a groin injury on Tuesday.
"Without question, getting these lads back would be a major boost for us," said Ferguson.
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