Manchester United star Alan Smith returned to competitive action for the first time since the appalling leg injury he sustained in February as he started for the club's reserve side on Monday night.
The former Leeds man has been sitting on the sidelines ever since he broke his leg in two places whilst playing for The Red Devils in an FA Cup tie against Liverpool, but after a surprisingly speedy recovery he managed 66 minutes against Preston North End reserves at Deepdale.
Smith started alongside promising Italian Giuseppe Rossi in the 7-2 victory for Brian McClair's men and suffered no ill-effects as he played for just over an hour in the Lancashire Senior Cup tie.
After his attempts to convert Smith into a midfielder, Sir Alex Ferguson is planning to use the 25-year-old in a more familiar striking role in the coming season and he could even be in line for a place on the bench against Watford on Saturday.
With Wayne Rooney suspended, Smith may have the chance to make his first-team comeback against The Hornets, but is more likely to turn out again for the reserves during the upcoming international break.
Smith missed a number of chances in the reserve match, but his successful return is superb news for United with no replacements forthcoming after the sale of Ruud van Nistelrooy.
The player himself was pleased with his comeback, but urged caution over his chances of a quick first team return.
"I have worked hard for that all through the summer," said Smith.
"That is what my goal has been. Playing for the reserves is a step-up from training and hopefully, in a few weeks' time I will have had some more reserve games and be able to make the step-up to the first team.
"The first half I felt okay but I started to get a bit tired 15 minutes into the second half, which is why I came off.
"I just need a few matches under my belt, although I think I could have played all night and not scored.
"But my movement was okay and I just need to build up my strength a little bit."