Adam Lallana is winning his fitness battle and could return to the Saints squad this week.
The midfielder damaged medial knee ligaments in the win over Reading on December 8 but is on course for a return just shy of eight weeks later.
Saints were hoping to get Lallana back at the start of next month, but he may be able to return slightly ahead of schedule with the 24-year-old touch and go to make the trip to Old Trafford on Wednesday.
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If he isn’t considered ready for that game, Saints are hoping to have their captain available for the trip to Wigan on Saturdau.
It will be a welcome boost for new Saints boss Mauricio Pochetinno who will have to make the decision on whether to chuck Lallana straight in or ease him in gently from the bench.
Though Saints have been enjoying a decent run of late, they have actually only won one of the eight games in which Lallana has missed.
That solitary victory came at Aston Villa. Saints have only lost two in that period – to Sunderland and Chelsea in the FA Cup – with league draws against Fulham, Stoke, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton.
Lallana’s return will also give Pochettino almost a full squad to choose from. Only centre half Jose Fonte remains out with his knee injury with the latest estimate for his return still a few weeks away.
New defender Vegard Forren will also be considered for a debut at Old Trafford. Pochettino could opt to stick with Maya Yoshida and Jos Hooiveld as a centre half pairing after they kept a clean sheet in his first game against Everton.
However, the Norwegian centre half will be considered for the United game.