Seb Larsson could be involved at West Ham when Sunderland resume their survival bid after the fortnight’s break from Premier League action.
Midfielder Larsson has been on the treatment table since November’s win over Stoke City due to a medial ligament problem in his knee.
The Swedish international had originally been expected to be sidelined for around five weeks, but the injury has proved to be far longer in healing.
However, Larsson returned to full training on Thursday and, while today’s visit of Manchester United has come too soon for the 30-year-old, he does have a chance of featuring in the trip to Sam Allardyce’s former club West Ham in two weeks time.
Allardyce told the Echo: “He trained on Thursday for the first time with the squad.
“He obviously wasn’t going to be involved today.
“But he could be available for the West Ham game.”
Larsson had just secured a place in Allardyce’s starting XI when he suffered the injury in November after the reigning Player of the Year had found himself limited to a substitute’s role under Dick Advocaat.
But the ex-Birmingham man’s return comes at an opportune time for Allardyce, who has seen his midfield and attacking options depleted by injuries, plus this week’s sacking of Adam Johnson.
Jeremain Lens and Duncan Watmore are both likely to still be on the treatment table for Sunderland’s last ever trip to Upton Park.
Summer signing Lens is due to undergo a hernia operation during the fortnight’s break, although the recovery time for that surgery can now be as short as 10 days.
Watmore, meanwhile, will be out even longer, despite the 21-year-old’s initial hope that the ankle injury he picked up at Liverpool last weekend was not serious.
The winger is currently wearing a protective boot while the swelling goes down to his ankle ligament damage, and then Sunderland will have a more accurate picture of the length of his lay-off, which could keep him out until April.