Kevin De Bruyne admits he will need to hold himself back as he eases himself into action following a long lay-off.
De Bruyne made his first appearance in five months with an impressive substitute cameo in Manchester City’s 5-0 FA Cup third-round demolition of Championship Huddersfield on Sunday.
The Belgium playmaker was given the last 33 minutes of a one-sided tie at the Etihad Stadium and wasted no time as he set up his side’s fifth goal for another player returning from injury, Jeremy Doku.
De Bruyne had a hamstring operation in August after being troubled further by a problem that had affected him in the latter stages of last season’s treble-winning campaign.
“I worked hard and I’m happy to be back,” said the 32-year-old. “I felt good so I’m pleased about that but I’m still nowhere near where I need to be.
“It’s a good continuation of the process of the last few weeks. I feel good, the movements were good, I felt comfortable in what I was doing and that was the only thing I was really looking for.
“To get that ovation after being away for five months gives you more of a boost. There will be moments I want to play every game but I know in the back of my mind I need to take care of myself.
“It’s good being January where we have fewer games. I don’t expect to be playing too many games and Newcastle next week is a big game so I’ll expect to be back on the bench.”
Getting injured was an obvious frustration for De Bruyne but, given his heavy schedule for club and country in recent years, he tried to turn the situation into a positive.
He said: “To be honest I enjoyed it in a way.
“At the beginning it was a big blow but I knew I was going to be out for four or five months, so after the first reaction I thought to myself I needed to work hard when I’m working, but then I could enjoy the things that I’ve not been able to do with my family and friends.
“Maybe it was good to refresh a little bit. It’s not like I needed a break but I took it, to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.”
City were already well in control when De Bruyne entered the fray after first-half goals from Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez. A third goal came after an Oscar Bobb cross deflected in off Ben Jackson and Foden doubled his tally before Doku wrapped up the scoring.
Despite his return, De Bruyne confirmed Kyle Walker will remain as the team’s regular captain having worn the armband throughout the Belgian’s absence.
“I’m number two, Walks is number one,” said De Bruyne.
Huddersfield boss Darren Moore felt his team acquitted themselves well and hopes that spirit can be carried forward as they look to pull away from the bottom end of the Sky Bet Championship.
Moore said: “It’s no disgrace to lose against arguably the best team in the world.
“It is about what we can take into next week and the second half of the season. For me as a manager a lot has been learnt, and certainly the players learnt a lot.”