Sir Alex Ferguson now expects Owen Hargreaves to be back by the end of January after revealing Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has returned to the Netherlands for treatment on a knee injury.
Hargreaves has not played for United since September 2008 after undergoing an operation to cure a long-standing problem with his knees.
The England midfielder was originally pencilled in to return to the first team around the start of November, but he has yet to make his comeback.
There have been suggestions that Hargreaves is lacking the confidence to return to action, but Ferguson feels the former Bayern Munich ace is making progress.
"Owen's doing a bit better this week, and he's coming along slowly," said the United manager.
"Hopefully he'll be back at the end of January."
Meanwhile, veteran keeper Van der Sar is likely to be out for another couple of weeks due to the knee injury he suffered in the 3-0 win over Everton last month.
Ferguson added: "Edwin is going back to Holland.
"It is a change of scenery for him and the Holland team doctor will have a look at the injury.
"He has never had an injury like this in his life before, so we think it is a good idea and expect him back in a couple of days."
United's defence is currently beset by injuries, but Ferguson is hoping Nemanja Vidic can shake off a calf problem to be available for Saturday's game at Fulham.
"We're waiting on Nemanja Vidic," continued Ferguson. "Hopefully he'll be OK for tomorrow, but he needs to train today."
Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Jonny Evans and John O'Shea are defensive absentees for United, while Portuguese winger Nani is out for a further fortnight with the ankle injury picked up against Wolfsburg.