Manchester United and England midfielder Owen Hargreaves took his first tentative steps on the road to full fitness last night and declared he had some “unfinished business” to attend to.
Hargreaves has been sidelined for 18 months with a chronic tendinitis problem he did not feel was adequately dealt with when it was first diagnosed.
Hargreaves subsequently underwent surgery on both knees under the guidance of renowned Colorado-based knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman.
The 29-year-old came back to United's Carrington training complex, since when it has been an agonisingly slow process just to reach the point of making a 45-minute appearance in the Red Devils' reserve side's 2-0 win over Burnley at Altrincham's Moss Lane ground last night.
“Absolutely it's unfinished business,” said Hargreaves.
“I had a very successful time at Bayern Munich and won everything. But I wanted a change. I wanted a challenge. I wanted to play for Manchester United.
“I wanted to come here and win the Champions League. We did that but I didn't really celebrate that season in Moscow.
“I was disappointed that I'd missed games. Although I had an impact, it wasn't as big as I would have wanted.
“I am 29 but hopefully I have a lot of time left in football and those dreams can become reality.”
Hargreaves arrived from Bayern with the tendinitis problem but completed around half United's games during that first season, including that famous Champions League final win over Chelsea in the Luzhniki Stadium.
Little did he know he was making the injury much worse.
“Not everybody's right and people make mistakes. That's part of life,” he said. “Ideally they don't involve you. When they do, you aren't too happy about it.
“In the end I missed two full seasons for Man United. I came here with high expectations for myself, and from the club's side of it, and the fans. To not to be able to play from 27 to 29 is incredibly disappointing.”
With time running out, it seems unlikely Hargreaves could mount a serious bid to play in this summer's World Cup.
Yet he has not entirely ruled the prospect out, saying: “I would love to have the opportunity to play again but I will have to see how I progress.”