England striker Wayne Rooney could return for Manchester United as early as 17 April for the Premier League clash against Manchester City.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said the player would recover in "two to three weeks" from ankle ligament damage.But in a best-case scenario he could play in their last four league matches and the Champions League semi-finals.
"The nation can stop praying," said Ferguson, referring to initial fears Rooney could have missed the World Cup.
The striker is certain to miss United's next three matches, starting with Saturday's important league clash against title rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford.
United then face Bayern Munich in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final next Wednesday, and will also be without Rooney for the Premier League trip to Blackburn on 11 April.
We are relieved. It could have been worse given the way he hobbled off
Sir Alex Ferguson
But the 24-year-old could be available to face either Lyon or Bordeaux in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals on 21 April, should United advance to the last four, by which time he might have begun his comeback in the Manchester derby four days earlier.
England fans breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when a Manchester United statement revealed Rooney had suffered only "minor" ligament damage despite leaving Germany on crutches after an awkward injury suffered in Tuesday's first leg against Bayern.