Michael Owen is back in full training with Manchester United and could get a reserve-team run-out before potentially earning a place on the bench during the exciting climax to the Barclays Premier League season.
The striker has been out injured since 2 November but could yet have a part to play in the run-in with Sir Alex Ferguson admitting the 32-year-old's golden touch in front of goal may prove vital. Although time is obviously running out with only three games left this term, a player who showed his finishing prowess in the early rounds of the Carling Cup has the tools to make an impact.
"It's been a long, old road when you're injured and this is probably the most frustrating part of the job," Owen told MUTV's Inside Carrington programme. "I've been out quite a while and been a bit in and out, doing a bit of training with the reserve lads, being the spare man, the 'joker' as we call it, in sessions. That was just to ease me back in for the first week. In the last week, I've been doing everything fully with the lads.
"I've been back in a couple of weeks and it's exciting to come in and know you're going to be training rather than wandering off to the gym to do all the rehab stuff so it's better late than never. But the staff here are great and they change what you're doing so it's a gradual process right from the early stages until they're handing you over to the first team."
Owen is having to tailor his sessions appropriately in order to regain full sharpness and ensure he is ready if called upon as we approach May. Although honest enough to realise he is unlikely to gatecrash the starting line-up, a place on the bench remains a realistic target.
"It's a little bit difficult for me to come back in a team that's played 50 or 60 games this year," he conceded. "Training slightly peters off and it's about recovering from one game and getting the stiffness out of your legs, then preparing for the next game tactically. Everything is not so much fitness work and, for me coming back, I need to be exposed to