Micah Richards has expressed his delight at returning to competitive action with Manchester City sooner than expected.
The 24-year-old made his first appearance of the season against Sunderland on Sunday, with an ankle injury picked up while on Olympic duty having delayed his start to the 2012/13 campaign.
Richards' inclusion at the heart of Roberto Mancini's back four came as something of a surprise, but he put in an assured display as the reigning Premier League champions eased to a 3-0 win.
"Obviously it is nice to get back after so long but it is nice to get a clean sheet," he told City TV.
"We had not kept a clean sheet this season so to come in and step into the back four - I thought the back four was outstanding.
"But I thought James Milner was my man of the match. I thought he was outstanding, he was everywhere.
"Obviously (Aleksandar) Kolarov had a good game as well, so it was an all-round good team performance and I am just happy to be back."
Richards has also taken the time to recognise the fine form of defensive colleague Joleon Lescott, a man he considers to be something of an unsung hero at the Etihad Stadium.
"He is a quality defender," Richards said of his fellow England international.
"A lot of people don't understand how good he is - well, people do because he is playing for England - but he really is a top-class centre-back, one of the best in the league.
"I think last season and at the start of this season he has shown that."