Tom Cleverley is targeting an FA Cup run after making his first Watford start in almost a year as the Hornets saw off non-league Woking in the third round on Sunday.
Surgery on an Achilles injury had sidelined Cleverley since January 31, 2018 but – after three substitute appearances – he was named in a much-changed side that won 2-0 at the Laithwaite Community Stadium.
Will Hughes and substitute Troy Deeney scored the goals for the Premier League club, with Cleverley hitting the bar with a first-half free-kick as the England international played the whole game for Javi Gracia's side.
"It was good to get 90 minutes under my belt," Cleverley said.
"It's been a long hard year and a long road back. It's a big moment for me and a good win for the lads
"Post-surgery it's been a lot better. I've had a time-frame, light at the end of the tunnel but the first four months were a bit unknown and it was hard.
"These are the points when a footballer needs to show the mental toughness to get through."
The win at Woking was only Cleverley's second appearance under Gracia, with his injury coming shortly after the Spaniard was appointed 12 months ago.
"It was bad timing," added the 29-year-old former Manchester United midfielder.
"The lads in my position have done fantastic so I've had to wait my turn. All I can do is my best, training, matches and yes, it's been a good week.
"I got 40 minutes at Bournemouth and 90 at Woking. I feel like I'm getting back in."
Cleverley lifted the Premier League title during his time at Old Trafford but never managed to win the FA Cup with the Red Devils.
He did reach the final while on loan at Aston Villa as they lost to Arsenal in 2015 and is aiming for a similar run this season with Watford.
"From my experience, what a cup run did for Villa when I was there, we got to the final, it was massive for the club," he said.
"It improved our league season, it improved the atmosphere around the club. It's game by game and you need a bit of luck in the draw but I think we should be looking to have a bit of a run. It's great for every club."