Paul Ince believes Owen Hargreaves' return to action could give a timely boost to both England and Manchester United's chances of success.
The 28-year-old returned to training last week after being out since September with a career-threatening knee injury.
"Sir Alex Ferguson must feel he's worth it to persist with him for such a long time, he's a fantastic player," Ince told Press Association Sport. "I like the way he plays and he has been missed at Man United and England. If you get him fit it'll be like having a new player, not only for Manchester United but for England as well."
He has been plagued by injuries since signing from Bayern Munich in 2007 and has had to undergo two operations in a bid to cure tendinitis in both knees.
Dr Richard Steadman, the world-renowned surgeon who treated Hargreaves, described the midfielder's injury as one of the worst he had seen in 35 years in the business.
There had been worries that the £18million midfielder would have to retire, but United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is confident he will play again and may choose to give Hargreaves a run-out in the Red Devils' Champions League dead rubber with Wolfsburg next week.
Ince, whose playing style was similar to the combative Hargreaves, won six major trophies during a six-year period at Old Trafford and also represented England 53 times during his 23-year career.
With United trailing Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea by five points, and England's midfield looking vulnerable against the top-class opposition, he believes Hargreaves' return could be vital for both club and country.
Ince added: "He's been out for so long that it's nice to see him back on the pitch where he belongs."
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