Rio Ferdinand could give Sir Alex Ferguson a considerable boost in his quest to guide Manchester United to the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble by making an early return from a calf injury after flying to Germany to see the leading specialist, Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, for treatment this week.
Ferguson had said this month that the 32-year-old central defender's season could be over with the news that he had suffered another injury setback which raised concerns about his long-term career. Ferdinand visited Müller-Wohlfahrt, the club doctor at Bayern Munich whose previous clients include Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, the now retired Brazilian striker Ronaldo and Usain Bolt, on Monday for what is understood to have been an injection in his back to try to solve the calf problem he suffered in United's league match against Aston Villa on 1 February.
Regarding Ferdinand's calf injury Ferguson said this month: "It's just not responding. Sometimes [calf] injuries can be troublesome. We experienced this with Bryan Robson in 1990. He was out for four months with a calf injury. Rio has been out for six weeks now; it's going on two months.
"We are not looking short term. He's hardly training yet and it looks to me like we'll be lucky to get him back fit for some part of the season."
It is now thought that the player hopes to be back running soon. He is under medical supervision at United and the club's next game after the international break, the visit to West Ham United on Saturday week, may come too soon.
But, if Ferdinand does respond positively to treatment, then there would be real hope he could be fit to face Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-final, in the second leg on 12 April, before the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at Wembley four days later.
Ferguson's hopes of repeating the treble he won in 1999 have been dented by injuries to his defenders. For United's league game with Bolton Wanderers last weekend Ferguson had only five fit defensive players: Chris Smalling, Wes Brown, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans and Fabio da Silva. Nemanja Vidic's calf problem ruled him out of the 1-0 victory. John O'Shea is unavailable for up to five weeks and Rafael da Silva three weeks – each with hamstring injuries – while Evans is now suspended for three matches after being sent off against Bolton.
Ferguson, meanwhile, has been criticised after not apologising following the incident that led to his five-game touchline ban. The manager claimed after United were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this month that the match, refereed by Martin Atkinson, demanded a "fair or strong referee".
Craig Moore, chairman of the FA's Independent Regulatory Commission that banned Ferguson and also fined him £30,000, wrote in his judgment: "Whatever view one may take about the performance of Mr Atkinson, or any other [referee], respect for their integrity is essential for the integrity of the game. His vast experience ought to have left Sir Alex in no doubt as to how any sense of injustice he may have felt about the decisions made in a match, or the performance of an official, should properly be channelled and expressed.
"Although he denied any intention to question Mr Atkinson's integrity, he should, at the very least, have realised the import of what he said. It follows that any credit to which Sir Alex may have been entitled by admitting the charge, and reduction in sanction, was lost.
"In addition, it follows from his denial of the charge that no clarification or retraction of any of his comments has been made by Sir Alex and no apology given to Mr Atkinson, even after the charge had been brought."
The commission also stated that Ferguson's comments had "undermined the attempts by the [FA], through its Respect Campaign, to encourage higher standards of behaviour within the game, including respect for officials".
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