Hargreaves eyes return to the top
Manchester United and England midfielder Owen Hargreaves is determined to rediscover his best form, after finally making his comeback.
The United star ended an 18-month injury nightmare on Thursday night when he made a 45-minute appearance in the Red Devils reserve side's victory over Burnley at Altrincham's Moss Lane.
It is the first step in what could be an extended battle to regain his place, both at Old Trafford and also in the England team. Even the World Cup has not been entirely ruled out as the 29-year-old inches further forward in his recovery programme.
But Hargreaves' ultimate aim is to rediscover the form that made him England's player of the 2006 World Cup and persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to invest £18million on him 12 months later.
"I had better get there," said the former Bayern Munich star. "I am not coming back to just be one of the guys and to fill a spot. I have never been that way and, if that was the case, then I would rather walk away.
"I am coming back to have an impact and hopefully I can do it this season."
Hargreaves arrived from Bayern Munich with the tendinitis problem but completed around half United's games during that first season, including that famous Champions League final win over Chelsea in the Luzhniki Stadium.
Little did he know he was making the injury much worse.
"Not everybody's right and people make mistakes. That's part of life," he said. "Ideally they don't involve you. When they do, you aren't too happy about it.
"In the end I missed two full seasons for Man United. I came here with high expectations for myself, and from the club's side of it, and the fans.
"To not to be able to play from 27 to 29 is incredibly disappointing."
With time running out, it seems unlikely Hargreaves can mount a serious bid to play in this summer's World Cup. Yet he has not entirely ruled the prospect out, even if, realistically, he would have to be pushing for a first-team recall within a couple of weeks.
"Well, it's there," he said of the target. "How it will materialise I don't know. I would love to have the opportunity to play again but I will have to see how I progress and just take it day by day.
"If I'm there, I'm there and I would love to help. If I'm not, I'm not."
Hargreaves will not be involved against Liverpool on Sunday when, after getting a full week to prepare and no midweek game ahead of his team, Sir Alex Ferguson should be choosing from strength.
Ryan Giggs is expected to return to the squad after breaking his arm at Aston Villa last month, with United looking to end a run of three straight defeats to their north-west rivals, all of which have seen Nemanja Vidic get sent off.
Manchester United will also discover on Friday who they will face in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. They and Arsenal are England's only remaining representatives in the competition after Chelsea were knocked out by Inter Milan earlier this week.