MANCHESTER, April 30 – Manchester United could be boosted by the return of both Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney for Sunday’s crucial Premier League encounter with Sunderland, Sir Alex Ferguson revealed on Friday.The duo have both been struggling with groin problems and Rooney has only just recovered from an ankle injury.
Rooney missed the 3-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend while Ferdinand has been absent for the last two encounters of what has been an injury-plagued season for the England captain.
However, both have trained and United’s physio team will monitor their reaction before deciding if they can face Steve Bruce’s side.
Ferguson said: "We expect Wayne to join us in training and possibly Rio Ferdinand as well.
"We will see how they do but we have a couple of days.
"Wayne missed last week’s game against Tottenham to allow the ankle to settle. We don’t have any issues with that now. Hopefully he is okay.
"Groin injuries can be a problem at this time of year when the grounds start to get firm but hopefully if he comes through today it gives us something to think about on Sunday."
Ferguson also announced that right-back Gary Neville has signed a 12-month contract extension at Old Trafford.
The 35-year-old has made 598 appearances for United since making his debut in 1992 and has joined fellow veterans Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Edwin van der Sar in extending his playing career at United.
"We have agreed a contract with Gary Neville for another year and it is something we have been working on for a couple of weeks," Ferguson said.
"We are delighted with that and we think he deserves it for his contribution at the club. He has been fantastic.
"I have said time and time about certain players, they make careers out of determination and will to do it and Gary has been one of those players.
"We have the three senior players, plus Edwin signed up to new contracts now.
"You can keep a player with experience and not play him of course, but I don’t think Gary would enjoy that. I don’t think any of the three would enjoy that."
The right-back suffered a serious ankle ligament injury which forced him out for 13 months in 2007 but he has played 27 games this season and Ferguson praised his mental strength and resilience.
He added: "The amazing thing about Gary is that he has come back from a serious injury in his thirties.
"To get to the level he is playing at today is astonishing. The man is doing it because of his determination and drive within himself not to give in.
"He is getting the rewards for that and his performance levels recently have been outstanding."
The race for the Premier League title is closer than ever but United will need a helping hand from arch-rivals Liverpool if they are to overtake Chelsea at the weekend.
United will have a chance to return to the top of the table if Chelsea fail to beat Liverpool in their lunchtime match at Anfield.
The Merseyside club and United have both won 18 league titles each — the joint highest in English football — and although the rivalry between the clubs is perhaps the strongest in the English game, Ferguson does not expect Rafa Benitez’s men to give Chelsea an easy ride.
"Great clubs don’t throw their histories away," he said. "They don’t throw their traditions away for one game.
"I think Liverpool will do their best on Sunday, they have to, there is no doubt about that."