Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has hinted that Rio Ferdinand will start Tuesday's vital Champions League last-16 first leg clash with AC Milan in the San Siro.
The recently named England captain is currently serving a domestic suspension and has only featured in two matches since October because of a back injury.
He marked his return to action by getting sent off in the 4-0 victory against Hull City last month before helping United reach the Carling Cup Final by playing in the semi-final second leg victory against Manchester City.
"We have to consider whether Rio will start but I think he probably will," confirmed Ferguson.
"We feel we've got to the bottom of the back problem. We certainly hope he'll be okay for the rest of the season. He's not missed a training session in the last six or seven weeks.
"We've worked really hard with him and he's worked very hard himself. He's now doing really well with his core work and we feel that will help him in the future."
Ferdinand is expected to team up with Wes Brown or Jonny Evans at the heart of United's defence as Nemanja Vidic remains sidelined.
Ferguson is adamant that the Serbia international will not be leaving Old Trafford next summer, adding:"It's pure speculation. We get that from time to time and we just have to deal with it.
"A lot of clubs want to buy our players. We want him to stay, of course. He's a great player and one of the best centre-backs in the world."