A judge in a federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan late on Sunday approved a plan by General Motors to sell its best assets to a new, government-backed company, The New York Times reported.

With approval of the plan, GM and the government are seeking to close the sale by Monday or Tuesday, the newspaper reported, citing people briefed on the matter.

Under the terms of the revised deal, GM would sell its most desirable assets, including the Chevrolet and Cadillac brands, to a new company owned largely by the American and Canadian governments and a health care trust for the United Automobile Workers union, the Times reported.

In a 95-page opinion, Judge Robert Gerber said he agreed with GM that the asset sale was needed to preserve its business, the newspaper reported.

Bankruptcy courts have the power to authorize sales of assets at a time when there still is value to preserve -- to prevent the death of the patient on the operating table, Gerber wrote.

The government, which is financing GM's reorganization, had given the automaker until Friday to win approval for the sale or risk losing its bankruptcy financing, the report said.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; editing by Anthony Boadle)