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English Premiership

Rio boost for United

MANCHESTER, January 22 – Rio Ferdinand will play his first match in almost three months when Manchester United entertain Hull on Saturday, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson revealed in an announcement that will be equally welcome news for England manager Fabio Capello.The centreback last featured for United in a defeat at Liverpool on October 25 and has since been battling a complex back injury which had led some to question whether the 30-year-old would be fit for England’s World Cup campaign at the end of the season.

"Rio has been training very well in the last few weeks," Ferguson told his regular Friday press conference. "He will play tomorrow."

The Scot added: "This is the time to bring him back. We have gone through the whole situation with him in terms of enough training and endurance work.

"It is a big boost because the defence has been the weakest part of our game this season.

"At various times we have lost Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Edwin van der Sar, John O’Shea. It has been a rough time, so to get them back can only be good for us."

With Chelsea and Arsenal involved in the FA Cup this weekend, United can return to the top of the Premier League with victory over struggling Hull.

United then follow that fixture with a visit to the Emirates before Arsene Wenger’s club face Chelsea the following week.

Ferguson said: "The nature of this league is that points are being dropped everywhere. If you win your games consistently, you’re top of the league and that’s the best place to be.

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"Arsenal proved that recently, they’ve won their games and now they’re top of the league, having been written off a few weeks ago. That’s the nature of the league this season.

"But tomorrow is an opportunity for us to get that top position. Arsenal, for us, next Sunday is a massive game and then they play Chelsea the week after so it’s interesting times now.

"You’ve got to win your games now. And, hopefully, we can see light at the end of the tunnel with the defenders being back and (goalkeeper Edwin) van der Sar being back."

While the general injury news for United is good, England midfielder Owen Hargreaves still appears no closer to a return from the knee injury which has seen him sidelined since September 2008.

Although Ferguson intends to name him in the United squad for the next phase of the Champions League, Hargreaves has no return date set.

"Owen is training with the reserves and is now into two days on, one day off, as he prepares to get to the proper fitness levels," said Ferguson.

"It is a process and, hopefully, we get to the point where he feels confident about playing."

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