Rooney closing on return

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Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will keep a close eye on Wayne Rooney's progress before his team's Barclays Premier League match against West Ham on Sunday.

The indications are that Rooney is nearing full fitness again after a five-match absence with a hamstring injury.

French defender Patrice Evra is also set to be fit for the trip to Upton Park, following an ankle injury suffered against Chelsea a month ago.

Nani is another player who could come into contention, after suffering a groin injury against Derby in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg victory.

Former United star Paddy Crerand believes the ball is firmly in his old club's court as they aim for a third successive title.

He was pleased to see Chelsea defeated by Liverpool at the weekend.

"Liverpool winning didn't bother me," Crerand told MUTV. "I would have preferred a draw. But the one thing I didn't want was a Chelsea win, because they are a bigger threat. Chelsea are a better all-round side than Liverpool.

"I honestly don't think Liverpool are a threat in the title race. The threat to United now is United themselves. Injuries and things like that are the only problem now. I fancy United strongly to win the league."

Liverpool could go top, though, on Saturday when they face a Portsmouth side that has not won in the league since November 30. Upton Park has also proved a difficult venue for United over the years.

Crerand added: "I think West Ham will be a very difficult match - it always is there."

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League Cup
Premier League
Derby County
Manchester United
Patrice Evra
Wayne Rooney

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