Manchester - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has received a timely boost with the news that Rio Ferdinand should return to action ahead of schedule.
Ferdinand has been recovering from the knee ligament damage which forced the England captain to miss the World Cup in South Africa.
Ferguson said last week that he expected the centre-back to be sidelined until the start of October, but Ferdinand has made rapid progress in his recovery and has been back in training this week.
He will not be in contention for Saturday's clash with West Ham at Old Trafford, but Ferguson is hoping to involve the former Leeds player in a game in the next two weeks.
There was another positive injury bulletin for Ferguson as Brazilian midfielder Anderson has returned to training after a knee problem.
Anderson has been out since February following cruciate ligament surgery but played for the reserves on Tuesday.
The news is a major morale boost in the wake of United's disappointing draw at Fulham last weekend when his team twice squandered the lead.
"Rio has trained this week and that surprised me. He has made fantastic progress," Ferguson said on Friday.
"Rio hadn't done anything football-wise when I spoke last week. When he read what I said maybe it gave him a kick.
"He has come in and trained this week and done fantastic. He will train with the reserves today (Friday).
"He won't be involved against West Ham of course but we have to try and think when we can get a game with him in the next two weeks because he is that close.
"Everything is fine with him. You have to be careful with ligament injuries, so we will monitor his progress but he is keen.
"Anderson has trained as well, which is also great. So it's really good news.
"You have to be aware he has been out for a long time. You have to monitor his progress a lot more carefully.
"But he is keen. He wanted to train after the game on Tuesday. That shows the enthusiasm he has got."
It is possible Ferdinand could feature in a reserve match or behind closed doors friendly next week.
Then he would be in contention for a Premier League clash against Everton on September 11 and the matches against Rangers and Liverpool that follow immediately afterwards.
Meanwhile, Ferguson is still ruing last week's draw at Craven Cottage and has urged United to be more clinical against struggling West Ham.
Although Avram Grant's side have lost their first two league games, Ferguson is anticipating a tight contest and he added: "We always have really good games against West Ham. They are always footballing games and it will be the same on Saturday.
"We were disappointed last week, throwing away two points like that, but hopefully we will be much better this time.
"We have some difficult games coming up. Fulham is not the easiest place to go but we still should have had three points."
Ferguson also insisted new signing Bebe has made a positive impression at United since his move from Portugal's Vitoria Guimaraes in pre-season.
It has been suggested the 20-year-old had been a major disappointment in training and some critics have claimed Ferguson had made a mistake investing so much in a player he had never actually seen.
But Ferguson said: "Bebe is on a programme doing endurance work because his fitness levels are not near the ones we are at.
"Other than that he has done well. I know he has had a couple of vicious attacks on him for why he wasn't playing in the reserve game but he was never going to be playing on Tuesday.
"The boy did not deserve that. He is a young man trying to make his way in football. They didn't need to do that. It was a really bitter attack. Ability-wise he is excellent. He is a terrific finisher."