Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that Owen Hargreaves will make his long-awaited return from injury next week.
The midfield enforcer is set for a reserve run-out against Manchester City on Thursday as he looks to step up his rehabilitation.
The England international has been out of action since September 2008, with a series of knee problems keeping him on the sidelines.
Hargreaves has undergone operations on both knees over the course of the last 18 months and has been a regular at Dr Richard Steadman's clinic in America.
He returned from the States in September and was reported to be only a few months away from full fitness.
His comeback has been pushed back since then, though, with the delay raising fresh concerns about his long-term future.
Reports suggested he could be out for the remainder of the season, dashing any hopes he had of making Fabio Capello's World Cup squad.
However, he could now be back in first-team contention heading down the final stretch, with Ferguson admitting the 29-year-old is making encouraging progress.
"Owen Hargreaves has shown for the first time that he is almost ready to play," he said.
"He has been training with the first-team, which has been good to see and is pencilled in for a game with the reserves on Thursday."
Ferguson has also announced further good news on the injury front for United, with Italian starlet Federico Macheda about to start training again following a recent injury.
His return helps to bolster the Red Devils' attacking options, with Michael Owen having been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a hamstring problem and Danny Welbeck currently out on loan at Championship outfit Preston.
"They are dropping off at the moment but we have got some encouragement with players coming back," said Ferguson.
"Macheda starts training with the first-team again next week which is also good news, particularly considering the loss of Michael.
"He is a good player to have back. So we have had some disappointments with some, and light at the end of the tunnel with other players."