Antonio Valencia
Antonio Valencia has been out since October after undergoing surgery for a foot injury sustained against Manchester CityGetty

Manchester United defender Antonio Valencia has provided a positive injury update ahead of the Red Devils' third round FA Cup clash against Sheffield United at Old Trafford on Saturday (9 January) after admitting that he is close to returning to the training pitch. The Ecuadorian has been sidelined with a foot injury suffered during the Manchester derby in October.

"Getting closer to return to the ground I feel happy," the Ecuador international wrote on his official Twitter account.

Louis van Gaal had revealed in November that the former Wigan Athletic star would remain out until at least February after he successfully underwent a surgery. Matteo Darmian had demoted Valencia to the bench to take over the right-back role at the start of the season but the 30-year-old player had fought his way back into the manager's plans before the injury struck.

"Valencia is longer term and very long. It is not within three months or something. It is a very heavy injury," Van Gaal said in November following the injury, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News.

The full-back positions have been a problem area for the Dutch manager this season, with Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Valencia suffering long-term injuries. Moreover, Darmian has also spent a spell on the sidelines, forcing the manager to call up teenage defender Guillermo Varela to the first-team squad, while Ashley Young has also been used to provide cover at right and left back.

The Italian defender has since returned and taken his place at right-back and the news of Valencia's possible availability in the near future will be a boost to Van Gaal, who has seen his team slide down the Premier League table in recent weeks. They are currently in fifth place, nine points behind current leaders Arsenal and three points behind fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur.