Yaya Toure received a standing ovation from his Manchester City teammates in the dressing room after returning to the side for the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.
The Ivorian scored twice in his first Premier League appearance of the season to secure the three points.
Toure had been frozen out of the squad by Pep Guardiola after comments from his agent Dimitri Seluk aimed at the City boss. But Toure apologised earlier this month and his teammates gave him a warm welcome on his return to the squad.
“It was fantastic because these guys have always been there for me. I was keeping smiling and always focused,” Toure said after the match. “The situation was very difficult but I’m very glad and thank you [to]the manager for letting me play today.
“I belong to the field and I’m very happy to be in there. I always say I want to help the club and help my teammates — that’s very important.
“I like how they gave me a standing ovation. If we end the season winning the title it’s going to be massive.”
Toure’s return could’t have gone much better as he fired City into a first-half lead before scoring the winner in the 83rd minute.
“I’m very happy — not just for goals but to come back and play,” he said.
“I was keeping going, preparing myself to stay fit and today I made the most of my opportunity. I think today was a lucky day for me to score.
“Today was a very tough game by Palace. We didn’t play as well as we did in our previous 11 games but to be honest sometimes you have to battle. In the end a win is brilliant.
Toure is now hoping to make up for lost time after patching up his differences with Guardiola.
He won’t be eligible for Wednesday’s clash at Borussia Monchengladbach after being left out of Guardiola’s Champions League squad, but is hoping to retain his place for next Saturday’s Premier League trip to Burnley.
“What we talked about will stay between me and him. He’s a guy who has his principles. He’s a guy who’s focused and loves football,” he said.
“We’ve got to be ready because this year’s going to be a massive challenge for us from Liverpool, Chelsea. We’re going to need all our players.
“If we want to win the title we have to have competition for places. If you don’t do well you have to go on the bench.”