SIR Alex Ferguson is vowing to take a softly-softly approach with Owen Hargreaves when the midfielder returns to Manchester United next month.
It is almost 12 months since Hargreaves was sent to respected knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman for ground-breaking operations on both legs to try to cure a tendinitis problem which has plagued him since his £18million move from Bayern Munich in 2007.
After doing all his rehabilitation work in the United States, the time is fast approaching for Hargreaves to come back to Manchester and see whether the operations have been enough to get him back on the pitch again.
Ferguson is confident the 28-year-old will return with a decent level of fitness. However, he is determined not to push Hargreaves too quickly too soon.
"Owen comes back on September 23," he said. "We are in dialogue with him all the time and the physio who is doing his rehabilitation over there will be coming with him for a week for the changeover.
"It means we can jointly understand all the treatments and rehabilitation he has been doing.
"The difficult part will be to get him back into the football side.
"We are certain his fitness will be good and his endurance work will have been done.
"But you don't have a player who has been out for over a year and suddenly throw him back into the fire right away.
"We will take our time because the important thing is to get him playing to the right level. Once we have done that he will be a tremendous addition for us."