Sir Alex Ferguson is yet to speak with Michael Owen about his future - but he insists the former England striker has a big part to play this season.
Owen has failed to make a meaningful contribution during his second season at Manchester United.
His substitute appearance against Stoke on Tuesday was only his eighth at senior level this season, three of which have been starts.
As Owen's contract expires at the end of the season, it does not bode well for an extension, especially as Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez have been excellent this term, Wayne Rooney had just signed a five-and-a-half year deal and Danny Welbeck is expected to return from Sunderland in the summer.
However, now fully recovered from the major hamstring injury he suffered during last season's Carling Cup final, Owen could still catch his manager's eye as Ferguson views the 31-year-old as an integral figure in the Red Devils' make-up.
'Now he is back fit, Michael will always be considered part of the squad and he will play in some big games,' Ferguson told Key103. 'I have not spoken to him about next season. There is no need for me to discuss that at the moment.
'He is a terrific player and a role model in the dressing room. He has never missed a session while he has been fit.'
Owen's fitness made it easier for Ferguson to accept Federico Macheda's request to leave United on loan for the remainder of the season, even if his destination, Sampdoria, was not quite what Ferguson was hoping for.
Model pro: Ferguson praised Owen's attitude in training and as a senior player
'Federico feels he has been neglected on the international front,' saidFerguson. 'This has given him an opportunity to play in Italy, wherethey can see him every week.
'We would have preferred him to play in the Premier League and he had opportunities to do that with several clubs. But he has made a good case and every player should always want to play for their international team.'
Meanwhile, Ferguson has defended the decision to bring three of his young players back from loan spells at Preston in the wake of the dismissal of his son, Darren.
The move has been viewed as a clear act of revenge on Ferguson's part given the treatment his son received at Deepdale.
Case for the defence: Ferguson said his decision to recall a trio of his players from Preston had nothing to do with his son's sacking as boss
Preston chairman Maurice Lindsay spoke of his shock at the move, which cost his club the services of Ritchie de Laet, Matty James and Joshua King.
However, Ferguson has decided to set the record straight, confirming that it was his players' desire not to go back to the Lancashire outfit, a view that was explained personally by the United boss to Preston owner and fellow horse-racing fan Trevor Hemmings.
'I spoke with the owner, Trevor Hemmings, with whom I have a good relationship, and explained that the players did not want to go back,' said Ferguson. 'Our reserve team coach, Warren Joyce, spoke to me about it. We decided that the players should go to training that day and we would discuss it later.
'We decided that if the players did not want to go back there was no point in them being there.
'Matty James was already injured and both Ritchie de Laet and Josh King were coming back in two days' time anyway, so under the regulations, we decided to keep them.'
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