WES Brown is set to return for Manchester United when the Premier League champions begin the defence of their title against Birmingham at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Brown suffered a thigh problem during a pre-season game against Boca Juniors last month.
However, he has come through training unscathed this week and may be pressed into service by Sir Alex Ferguson given a clutch of defensive injuries that have hit the Reds camp.
Nemanja Vidic had already been ruled out by a calf problem and while Gary Neville has, like Brown, trained this week, he is further behind in his preparation having flown home from United's Far East tour with a calf injury and will not be considered.
In addition, Jonny Evans aggravated an ankle injury he suffered during Sunday's Community Shield defeat to Chelsea when he began international duty with Northern Ireland.
Although Evans was immediately ordered back to Manchester by Nigel Worthington, it may not be enough to guarantee his fitness to face Alex McLeish's men.
Ritchie De Laet and Fabio could both occupy full-back positions, with John O'Shea switching to central defence to partner Rio Ferdinand, who tweaked a back muscle on England duty in Holland on Wednesday.
The more likely option is for O'Shea to remain at right-back and Ferguson to use Brown's experience in the centre.
There is some good news on the injury front for Ferguson though, with goalkeeper Ben Foster over the knee problem that forced him to miss the England game.
In addition - and to Ferguson's surprise - Nani shrugged off the effects of a dislocated shoulder to feature as a substitute in Portugal's midweek triumph over Liechtenstein and is also available.
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Rio Ferdinand, meanwhile, insists the Premier League title alone won't be enough to satisfy his thirst for success ahead of the game.
United came closer than ever to winning an unprecedented quintuple last season, but made do with the title, Club World Cup and Carling Cup.
Because they are not involved in the Club World Cup this season, the best they can hope for is a quadruple, which is exactly what Ferdinand is targeting.
"I want to win everything," he said. "If we do that, amazing. If not, then we hope we at least win one or two. It might sound greedy, but I can't even contemplate entering a competition and not wanting to win it.
"That just doesn't make sense to me. The Premier League's our bread and butter and we want to make history by winning it four times in a row."
Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish faces major selection problems ahead of his team’s daunting return to the Barclays Premier League.
Defenders Liam Ridgewell, Martin Taylor, Scott Dann, Giovanny Espinoza and David Murphy are all unavailable.
Midfielder Lee Bowyer is suspended while striker Marcus Bent is sidelined by a hamstring problem.
But new signings Joe Hart, Roger Johnson, Gregory Vignal and Barry Ferguson will all make their debuts.
Fellow new boy, striker Christian Benitez, could be on the bench as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery.
Manchester United (from): Foster, Ferdinand, Evra, Brown, Carrick, Tosic, Scholes, Berbatov, O'Shea, Fletcher, Park, Rooney, Nani, Fabio, Valencia, Anderson, Owen, Kuszczak
Birmingham City (from): Hart, Taylor, Carr, Roger Johnson, Queudrue, Vignal, Parnaby, Larsson, Carsley, Ferguson, McSheffrey, Damien Johnson, Fahey, McFadden, Jerome, O’Connor, Phillips, Benitez, Sammons, Wilson.
Key opponent: James McFadden - fiery Scot can produce a goal out of nothing
Prediction: United 2 Birmingham 0