Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic could be back to bolster Manchester United's flagging Premier League title challenge against West Ham tomorrow.

Sir Alex Ferguson has not had his first-choice central defensive partnership available since October but with Ferdinand now clear of suspension and Vidic over the nerve problem that has prevented him making an appearance in 2010, both are expected to start against the Hammers.

With the Carling Cup final just five days away, Ferguson might have been tempted to rest Wayne Rooney but that hardly seems likely in the wake of Saturday's defeat at Everton that left the Red Devils four points adrift of Chelsea. Nani is still suspended.

As someone who has finished a champion in each of his three full seasons since his £18.6million move to Old Trafford from Tottenham, midfielder Michael Carrick is reluctant to let than run come to an end.

However, he knows extending it means inflicting some pain on West Ham, the club where he started his career and who he clearly retains a lot of affection for.

"West Ham gave me my chance," he said. "They took me away from home, taught me a lot of things and guided me through.

"They gave me a chance in the first team, so I have a lot to thank them for.

"I still have a lot of friends there who I like to see when I go back.

"But, obviously, when we kick off it is business as usual and I am desperate to get the win."


West Ham United



West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola has doubts over striker Benni McCarthy.

The South African star, who signed for the Hammers on the last day of the January transfer window, has been out with a knee problem since the 2-1 defeat at Burnley on February 10.

England midfielder Kieron Dyer and defender Danny Gabbidon (both hamstring) are not yet fully fit.

Herita Ilunga is set to miss out with a tendon injury while Luis Boa Morte (knee), Calum Davenport (leg) and Zavon Hines (knee) are all long-term absentees.

The victory over Hull on Saturday pushed West Ham into 13th place in the Premier League table and optimism has returned ahead of the trip to Old Tafford.

Midfielder Scott Parker said: "I said a few weeks ago when we were on a bit of a bad run of results that, if we could put two wins back-to-back, we could really go places.

"We've now got those two wins back-to-back and hopefully we can push on. We've had two good results against an in-form Birmingham and we came out worthy winners on Saturday.

"We've got a tough game at Manchester United and we go there with massive confidence.

"We all know how hard it is going to Old Trafford and they're coming off a little stinging at Everton but we'll go there and see what we can do."

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