Sir Alex Ferguson is eyeing Manchester United's Capital One Cup tie with Newcastle on September 26 as Darren Fletcher's comeback game.
Ferguson has revealed Fletcher will be part of his squad for Saturday's Barclays Premier League encounter with Wigan as the Scot continues his recovery from a chronic bowel condition.
The United boss is still to decide whether to put the 28-year-old on the bench or not, which would clearly be a significant step forward. However, even if the Scotland skipper is not involved, providing he avoids any setbacks, he will play against Newcastle, which falls in the middle of a busy period for Ferguson and his team.
"I have to make my mind up about Darren," said Ferguson. "I am just looking at the options but it is a possibility. The important thing is that he is back in the squad.
"I am looking at the Newcastle cup tie as a starting point for him because we alter the make-up of the side for these games."
Even to reach this point speaks highly of Fletcher's character and his refusal to yield to a condition that would have spelled the end for many top-level players.
The problem has plagued Fletcher since March 2011, although it was not made public until December after the Dalkeith-born midfielder gave up trying to battle through.
In the end it was decided he needed an extended rest from the game, during which time he has been doing some coaching with United's junior teams.
Fletcher has stepped up his recovery programme this season though and featured in another reserve match at Stalybridge Celtic on Tuesday. Now the final step is in sight, even if Ferguson is still applying caution to the whole situation.
"He is in the squad tomorrow, simply because I think it can give him a boost," he said. "It charts the progress the lad has made. The next step we should take is when we can involve him in a game in our first team."
- Sir Alex Ferguson
- Darren Fletcher
- Manchester United