Capital One Cup: Darren Fletcher set for first start after illness

MANCHESTER United take their first tentative steps towards another trophy at Old Trafford tonight, with Sir Alex Ferguson pondering whether to introduce a couple of significant faces to his team to play Newcastle in the Capital One Cup.

Darren Fletcher is expected to feature in the starting line-up for the first time in ten months. Providing he makes it, the Scotland skipper would be making another major leap forward in his battle to combat a chronic bowel complaint, made public in December but which has troubled him since March 2011.

Fletcher has been back in full training this season and has played in reserve matches for the Old Trafford club – such as last month’s friendly against Aberdeen in Neil Simpson’s benefit game at Pittodrie – but his only competitive action so far has been an 11-minute substitute appearance at the end of United’s 1-0 win over Galatasaray in the Champions League last midweek.

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Wayne Rooney is another who could make a return to the fold. In rejecting the potential for Rooney to feature in last weekend’s emotional trip to Liverpool, Ferguson vaguely offered “next week” as a possibility for the striker’s return from a gashed thigh.

And Ferguson has previously used the fourth competition on his list of seasonal priorities for star men to hit the comeback trail, having done so with Cristiano Ronaldo, who made his first start of the 2008-09 campaign against Middlesbrough after ankle surgery.

Although Tottenham, Cluj and a Premier League trip to Newcastle are also to come before the next international break, as Rooney has returned to training, a place on the bench this evening can not entirely be ruled out, particularly as the striker has such a good record against the Magpies.

Rooney will want to make an impact when he does eventually return, having failed to shine in the opening weekend defeat to former club Everton, which resulted in him being dropped against Fulham five days later.

That was the game in which the 26-year-old sustained the deep gash to his thigh that has ruled him out for a month so far.

While Rooney’s participation cannot be taken for granted, it appears to be the perfect opportunity for 18-year-old new-boy Angelo Henriquez. Delays in securing Henriquez’s international clearance following his arrival from Chile meant that Ferguson was unwilling to register him in his Champions League squad.

Having taken the decision not to immediately send Henriquez back to South America as expected, the newly-rebranded League Cup offers the most obvious opportunity for first-team action and it would be a surprise if he was not involved at some stage.

Nick Powell, Alex Buttner and Michael Keane are others who can expect to feature, but captain Nemanja Vidic will be absent after it emerged yesterday that the defender has been ruled out for eight weeks following knee surgery. Vidic missed Sunday’s win at Liverpool after complaining of tightness in his right knee. However, a subsequent examination revealed a greater problem, prompting Vidic to be sent for an operation, which has now been completed.

“Nemanja Vidic has had a meniscus operation on his right knee and will be out for around eight weeks,” said a club spokesman yesterday. “Sir Alex, as a precautionary measure, rested Vidic at the weekend, after he complained of tightness in his knee. However, further medical investigation revealed the underlying problem.”