Phil Jones
England's Phil Jones challenges Sweden's Johan Elmander (R) during their international friendly at Wembley Stadium in London, November 15, 2011 Reuters

The 20 year old, who joined Old Trafford for £16m last year, underwent surgery on his knee for a torn cartilage in a training session. The youngster has had a particularly troubled start to the season and has yet to feature for the club in this campaign, having been ruled out with back spasms earlier.

"Phil has been working hard, he's slightly ahead of schedule and is looking at the Chelsea game at the end of the month for his return," an unidentified source told

News that Jones will be available for the trip to Stamford Bridge will come as a big boost to United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who is already dealing with a troublesome injury crisis in defence. The absence of experienced centre back Nemanja Vidic has been particularly felt by the United back line, with the Serbian ruled out from September onwards with a knee injury that had to be operated on. The 30 year old is unlikely to play again before December.

Jones, along with 22 year old Chris Smalling, a 2010 signing from Fulham, is widely acknowledged as the future of United's defensive forces. Unfortunately, Smalling, who suffered a groin injury in May and a broken metatarsal afterwards, has also been unavailable all this time but he is now expected to return soon as well - maybe as early as the 20 October game against Stoke City -, meaning, in the near future, Ferguson will have the luxury of selection decisions for the back line.

United go into the international break with 15 points from seven games, four behind European champions and league leaders Chelsea. This period is the start of a run of games against top-class opponents and includes the visit of Portuguese side Braga in a Champions League fixture and a double-header against Chelsea - the league and the Capital One Cup, both at the Bridge - followed by the visit of Arsenal on 3 November and a trip to play Braga in Portugal.