Sheffield United hope to have Sander Berge available before end of season after Norwegian midfielder takes another step in recovery
Paul Heckingbottom admits he is hopeful to get Sander Berge back on the pitch in a Sheffield United shirt before the end of the season as the Norwegian international steps up his recovery from a hamstring injury in training this week.
Berge has been out of action since picking up the injury against Manchester United back in December, severely limiting Heckingbottom's options in midfield since assuming control following Chris Wilder's departure last month.
But Berge, formerly United's record signing, was pictured back on the training pitch with his national team after being called up during the last international break, despite being some way off full match fitness.
And the midfielder will return to training this coming week, Heckingbottom revealed - although it will come much too late to give United any realistic hope of surviving in the Premier League this season.
Sunday's 3-0 defeat at home to Arsenal left United 18 points adrift of fourth-bottom Newcastle, with only seven games of the season remaining.
"We're looking to get Sander back in training next week now," Heckingbottom said on Sunday.
"So that'll be a boost, both for Sander and for the rest of the players and the team.
"Hopefully his minutes on the training pitch go well and we can keep pushing and progressing him, and then look to get some minutes on the pitch for him in a couple of weeks or so."
Although having Berge available for selection will ease one of Heckingbottom's selection headaches, he will resist the temptation to rush the midfielder back too soon with United's relegation fate likely to be sealed in the coming weeks.
Berge, who has experience of playing in the Champions League and has 24 caps for Norway, is expected to be the subject of interest this summer when the vultures begin to circle over those members of United's squad that have shown they are capable of playing Premier League football.
Mikel Arteta's side are one keeping tabs on Berge's situation, while their London rivals Spurs may also table a bid. Manchester City have also been linked with Berge as a possible replacement for 35-year-old Fernandinho, whose City contract expires this summer.