Darren Fletcher handed Manchester United a major boost, in the midst of a crippling injury crisis at Old Trafford, by coming through a reserve outing on Monday unscathed.
The 27-year-old has figured just twice for United since early March due to a mystery illness which left the Scot unable to feature in the Champions League final against Barcelona, nor in any of the club's pre-season matches.
However, after using the summer to complete his personal training programme, Fletcher made his first appearance of the season against Arsenal reserves at Underhill.
Reserve team boss Warren Joyce said: “The manager and Darren will be delighted that he got a very good work-out in a very tough game.
“There was a lot of running and chasing to be done and it was a tremendous effort by him. As long as there is no reaction then he’ll probably be training for the rest of the week and the manager will see how he goes from there.
“It is his first match and he’s still in pre-season really. He’ll build up from this and hopefully go from strength to strength. But he’s come through a hard 90 minutes unscathed and that’s good for Darren’s health and good news for the club.”
Fletcher could now be in contention to play in United's opening Barclays Premier League home game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, however he could be restricted to reserve appearances.
News on Fletcher is the only shard of light on United's injury plight, with an extensive injury list facing Sir Alex Ferguson after barely a week of the season.
After Antonio Valencia's broken ankle, which kept him out for much of last season, United have encountered similarly bad luck this season, with numerous first teams regulars already on the sidelines.
Rafael De Silva has been ruled out for 10 weeks after dislocating his shoulder in training after he made a cameo appearance in the Community Shield against Manchester City.
More pressing though, are the injuries suffered by centre back pair Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, who both limped off during United's win over West Bromwich Albion.
Vidic will be out for two weeks, while Ferdinand, who picked up a hamstring problem, will miss six weeks of action.
Ferguson said: "Young Rafa has done his shoulder in training on Friday and will be out for 10 weeks. He's probably going to have an operation.
"Rio will be out for six weeks. Vida will have checks on Monday, we don't know if it's just a nerve or something, but he could be out for a couple of weeks."
The England defender will miss the visits of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea as well as the trips to Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City.
Fabio Capello will also be left without Ferdinand for England's Euro 2012 qualifying double header against Bulgaria and Wales in September
United were already without Patrice Evra, who is now expected to return to the team after missing the win at The Hawthorns, and Valencia who suffered an injury scare in the Copa America.
In attack, Javier Hernandez, who is out with concussion and Michael Owen, who missed the Community Shield with a back injury, aren't expected back for the foreseeable future.
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