Gabriel Heinze could be back in training with Manchester United by the beginning of April.
Sir Alex Ferguson had written off the 27-year-old for the remainder of the campaign after Heinze ruptured cruciate ligaments in the Champions League draw with Villarreal in September.
The outstanding Argentinian full-back has been badly missed at Old Trafford but he sprang a surprise earlier this week by announcing he could be back in action 'within a month' given the progress he has made during his rehabilitation in Spain.
Ferguson does not believe Heinze will make that deadline but he has confirmed the man who made such a huge impression with the Red Devils last term could play for United again before the end of the season.
If the former Paris St Germain defender does return early, he would then be in line for a recall to the Argentina squad in time for this summer's World Cup.
'Gaby is on full throttle now,' said the United boss. 'His progress has been very good and he is training every day now.
'He wanted a particular surgeon to do the operation, which he was entitled to request, and, having made that decision, we felt he should have the rehabilitation in Spain so the surgeon was in complete control of the situation.
'The latest development is he could be back here by the beginning of April, with the possibility of playing again before the end of the season.
'That is good news for him in the sense of playing in the World Cup.
'It would be great to get him back and I would not be against him going to the World Cup because it would get him playing games again.'