LONDON (AP) – Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed skipper Nemanja Vidic and fellow defender Chris Smalling will be fit for the new season.
Vidic has been missing since rupturing cruciate ligaments in December, whilst Smalling required a groin operation that ruled him out of contention for Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad.
However, Jonny Evans is unlikely to face Everton at Goodison Park on August 20 after a summer ankle operation.
"Jonny has had an operation," said Ferguson. "I am not sure he will start the season but he won't be far away.
"Chris Smalling has done a bit of training.
"The ruptured groin muscle he had certainly needed a lot of attention.
"He is gradually progressing and I expect him to start the season."
That could be good news for Hodgson ahead of England's friendly with Italy in Berne on August 15.
However, United fans will be buoyed by the positive news on Vidic, whose absence in the vital games at the end of last season was viewed as a major factor in the points dropped to Wigan, Manchester City and, catastrophically, Everton which ultimately cost the Red Devils their title.
"Vidic will start the season, I am sure of that," said Ferguson.
"He is still at the level of doing good amounts of training but not in the competitive sense that the others have done so it was pointless bringing him out here.
"He is better being back at Carrington, with all the facilities and the physios to get him to the next level.
"By the time we get back, we hope he is at the competitive element of his comeback."
Meanwhile, Ferguson confirmed 19-year-old midfielder Jesse Lingard and Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Robbie Brady are set to start United's first pre-season game against AmaZulu in Durban on Wednesday.
The game, which coincides with Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday, will also mark the debut of new arrival Shinji Kagawa, in addition to a host of more experienced players, led by Rio Ferdinand.
"It is always a difficult one," said Ferguson.
"Obviously the priority is to get the fitness of the experienced players correct. But there will be young players involved in each game because I don't have the full quota with me.
"Jesse Lingard has been doing well and Brady will play at left-back because even though he is an outside left, we feel he has the quality to develop into a left-back."