Owen Hargreaves has admitted the thought of pulling his boots back on after virtually three years on the sidelines was "frightening".
The 30-year-old made a dream debut for Manchester City on Wednesday, scoring the opener, then coming through almost an hour unscathed as Roberto Mancini's men recorded a 2-0 Carling Cup win over holders Birmingham at the Etihad Stadium.
"It has been three years and four months," he said. "That is frightening in itself."
Hargreaves added: "I am not surprised how quickly I was in contention. There was a bit of a misconception and I don't think people would believe me if I said everything that went on.
"I would never have anticipated all these setbacks in my worst nightmare. You are left to pick up the pieces. That has been the biggest obstacle.
"It was a pretty humbling experience but I knew this day would come. Hopefully I will learn from it and make some changes and look forward to the future."
When Hargreaves was posting a video on YouTube showing himself being pushed through a bizarre exercise routine, it appeared like the last act of a desperate man. Instead, it triggered interest from Roberto Mancini, who needed midfield reinforcements and made his move the day before the deadline closed.
"I just needed to be pointed in the right direction," Hargreaves said. "The staff have done a terrific job of making sure everything was sorted. I did a lot of hard work this summer as well. I just need a bit more time to get used to the tempo. It is more dynamic when you are training with the group rather than on your own. So far it has been a great progression."
If Hargreaves was confident about his body's ability to stand up to the strain of facing an admittedly limited Birmingham outfit, his goal was something else. And as he departed to a standing ovation, the mind immediately fast-forwarded to the potential for a delicious return to Old Trafford on October 23.
"I have proved in the past I can do a lot of things," said Hargreaves of his three-week stint at City. We have a very talented group here. I will help any way I can."
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