Jack Wilshere was shocked to be recalled to the Arsenal starting line-up but happy Arsene Wenger decided to bring him back against QPR.
"The boss came up to me and said he was going to start me from the start and I was shocked, to be honest,'' Wilshere told BBC Sport. "To be honest after 60 (minutes) I was cramping up. It was just literally my legs were going.''
Wilshere described how changes since he was injured meant it was like playing in a different team.
"It's great to be back, especially with the new team. Last time I played it was with Fabregas and Nasri and now there's Arteta and Cazorla so it's like a new team and a new me.
"It's been very tough for me, for any player who's been injured it's tough. Luckily for me I've got my family. I've got my son now who's helped me through it.
"You question yourself every day are you going to get back to that level? You have up days and you have down days. The fans have been great for me, they've been so positive. Even through the darkest times they really helped me.''
Wenger revealed he had not told Wilshere he would be playing his first game for more than a year in the battling 1-0 win.
Wilshere's previous Arsenal league appearance came on the final day of the season in May 2011 and he missed the whole of the last campaign with niggling ankle and knee problems.
The 20-year-old's first touch was greeted by huge cheers, and he got through a testing 67 minutes.
"I made the decision without telling him because when you have not played for such long time it is not always easy to deal with that and there is a high level of expectation when he goes on the pitch,'' said Wenger.
"I told him he was playing at 10.30am today. Sometimes I think it is better when you don't have much time to think about it when you have been out for a long time.
"I also felt the confidence of the team was a bit jaded and sometimes player with experience and quality give a bit of a lift as well.''
Wenger felt Wilshere came through the game with a lot of credit, going up against a combative QPR midfield of Samba Diakite and Esteban Granero.
"You could see technically he is there, and he gave everything, but what is missing he will get through competition,'' said Wenger. "Jack still misses a bit of the pace of the game, the rhythm of the game, but overall what he did was class.''
Wenger, however, will attempt to ease Wilshere back into full-time action, and so will be rested for the midweek's Capital One Cup tie at Reading.
"We have to see how he responds. After such a long time out, it goes a bit up and down. What is good is that he got kicked today and had no problem. The rest will come with the games,'' he said.
"Now, after a game like that, I will certainly not play him on Tuesday [against Reading in the Capital One Cup]. Will I play him [at Manchester United] next week? I don't know.
"I am very happy with the result because we lost two big games in our head, and the confidence was a bit jaded. We were serious, we moved the ball quite well and we needed to be patient. It was important not to make a mistake, and wait for our chance and take it.''
QPR manager Mark Hughes felt Arsenal's goal was offside. He said: "I have seen the replay, Arteta is offside twice, on the initial header that Julio saves and in the melee he comes back from an offside position and scored.
"How the referee hasn't given offside, I don't know. We have gone in and asked for an explanation and he has come up with some explanation about Ryan Nelsen leaving the field of play so that played everybody onside. I have no idea what he is going on about, but that's what you're up against.''
Hughes also was less than impressed by the red card.
"We were given the initial free-kick, obviously Stephane doesn't know this and he swung his leg out and there is minimal contact,'' he said. "Vermaelen is obviously going to make the most of it and he did.
"The referee deemed it warranted a sending off, if there was contact it is a red card and we have to accept that - but at that stage it was hard to take because I felt we were in total control of the game.''
Hughes' side remain bottom of the table, without a win. He said: "It was a very professional away performance, but again we have got nothing for it.''