Scott Wharton stepped up his comeback after 10 months out with a ruptured Achilles by starting a behind closed doors friendly with Manchester United.

The 23-year-old has been out since being taken off on a stretcher in the 2-2 draw with Brentford in December, and later undergoing surgery.

Wharton has been training with the squad for the last three weeks and took his next step towards making a return to action by playing 45 minutes in a 3-0 friendly defeat to Manchester United.

Brighton loanee Jan Paul van Hecke also made his first outing in Rovers colours in the fixture.

Friday’s Premier League Cup tie with Middlesbrough was set to be the return date for Wharton and van Hecke however the club arranged a behind closed doors game with United to hand those returning from injury vital minutes in their quest to push for first-team involvement.

The Dutchman arrived at Brockhall last week having been with parent club Brighton & Hove Albion to complete his rehabilitation due to an ongoing injury when his loan deal was finalised 48 hours ahead of deadline day.

Rovers never expected the 21-year-old to feature before the international break, and van Hecke will now push towards his first involvement in a matchday squad when Coventry City visit Ewood Park on October 16.

Bradley Johnson was back in the matchday squad for the visit to Blackpool before the international break, after twice turning out for the Under-23s having been out since the opening pre-season friendly at AFC Fylde after sustaining a hamstring strain.

He also played against a United side which included Marcus Rashford, the England international on his own comeback trail after struggling with a shoulder injury.

Rashford scored twice in a 3-0 win for United who hosted Rovers at their Carrington training base, with Phil Jones also involved for the Reds.

Joe Rankin-Costello, out since April with a fractured metatarsal had featured in a similar game with Morecambe during the last international break, after previously turning out for the Under-23s, also featured having had a minor setback in his bid to return to action.

A youthful side is expected to feature in tomorrow night’s Premier League Cup tie with Middlesbrough after the arrangement of the United fixture, with the first-team squad to be afforded the weekend off due to the international break.

Johnson will now be looking to push for first-team involvement on the return to Championship action against Coventry, though Tony Mowbray will have to weigh up the readiness of van Hecke and Rankin-Costello.

The Under-23s have a fixture on the same day as the Sky Blues visit next Saturday, and Rovers could deem that as a more suitable option for the pair so to get them fully up to speed before being thrust into the first-team environment.