Gabriel Heinze showed no obvious signs of rustiness as he played over an hour for Manchester United's reserves against Aston Villa at the Lamb Ground in Tamworth on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Argentinian suffered ruptured cruciate ligaments in the Red Devils' Champions League match away to Villarreal in September and it was initially feared he was out for the season and would also miss the World Cup.
But Heinze, who has been back in training with the first team for four weeks, put in a sharp and tenacious display for United's second string before he came off in the second half.
He made a number of important interceptions, including one vital clearance while falling backwards in the 37th minute after United goalkeeper Luke Steele parried a shot.
Kieran Richardson also featured as he continued his recovery from a foot injury suffered in the win over Birmingham last month. The England international played 62 minutes before he was replaced by Jamie Mullan, shortly before Heinze made his exit.
Quinton Fortune, battling back from yet another injury, was involved, having not played for the first team all season. He underwent surgery on his knee last December.
United's 1-0 win, thanks to a Frazer Campbell goal in the first half, all but ensures back-to-back Premier Reserve League titles.
United old boy Eric Djemba-Djemba was in the Villa line-up, the Cameroon midfielder having not played for the first team since October after he was critical of manager David O'Leary.