Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is pleased with the progress of Jack Wilshire's recovery from injury after confirming the midfielder has returned to outdoor practice sessions.
An ankle operation has meant the England international has not played a competitive match since last June, when he featured in the 2-2 draw with Switzerland in qualifying for Euro 2012.
Wilshere's absence has been just one of Arsenal's fitness problems, which sees them on Sunday facing Manchester United potentially missing nine injured first-team squad members.
But the 20-year-old remains on course for an expected return in February after overcoming a minor hindrance in his rehabilitation.
"There is positive news about him, because he is back to running after he had a little setback with the inflammation of his bone," said Wenger of Wilshere.
"He is able to go outside and practice, but he is a few weeks away."
Thierry Henry is among the concerns ahead of facing United, when Arsenal aim to reclaim some pride after the 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford in August, and on Saturday the Frenchman is to undergo a fitness test on a calf problem.
Thomas Vermaelen is also not expected to feature when United visit Emirates Stadium, although Wenger could offer his star defender a late assessment.
"At the moment, I don't think he will make it for Sunday," the Arsenal boss said of the Belgium international. "Let's hope we have a good surprise.
"Let's see how he develops. There may be a test. At the moment, we just go day by day. But he looks short."
The position of full-back has been a major thorn for Wenger and he will again be without Bacary Sagna (broken leg) and Kieran Gibbs (groin) for the next "two to three weeks", while Carl Jenkinson (back) has resumed training, but is on the same timeline as Wilshere, and Andre Santos (ankle) is two months away from fitness.
Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin will be absent against United and the earliest Wenger expects the midfielders to return will be the FA Cup game against Aston Villa on 29th January.
Wenger, though, has confirmed goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is fit again after recovering from his knee problem.
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