Michael Beale declared Martin Skrtel's comeback a success as the Slovakian international played an hour for the U21s during Friday night's 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

Liverpool’s No.37 was a rock solid figure at the back as he played his first minutes in a red shirt since picking up a hamstring injury during the defeat at Watford on December 20.

He was an unused substitute during the 3-0 Anfield victory over Manchester City on March 2, and Beale admits he is now targeting a return to action for the first-team squad when they face Manchester United in the second-leg of their last 16 Europa League tie next Thursday.

“That was always planned for Martin [to play for an hour],” Beale told Liverpoolfc.com.

“Martin has been out for a while and he looked sharp.

“Obviously he will now be itching to get in the squad for the Europa League clash with Manchester United next Thursday, so it’s onwards for him from there.”

Reflecting on the point against United, Beale admitted he was slightly disappointed not to have picked up the victory.

He added: “I thought there was a period especially in the first 15 to 20 minutes of the second half when we got our noses in front and then had two or three really good opportunities to get the second goal, but just maybe our final pass or shot let us down.

“I was frustrated with their goal because it was the only mistake we made defensively, but overall I thought we were the better team on the night. It’s a good point but I’m a bit frustrated it wasn’t three.”

Jerome Sinclair had opened the scoring with a brilliant finish before James Weir claimed the equaliser from close range.

Ryan Kent and Sheyi Ojo both caught the eye for the Reds on the night, and Beale admitted he is delighted with the way the duo are progressing since returning from loan spells with Coventry City and Wolves.

“It was a great finish from Jerome for our goal and a great assist from Ryan Kent,” he said.

“To execute it the way he did, it was a fantastic finish from Jerome.

“I thought Ryan was really sharp all night. When you think about he’s on the pitch with the likes of Adnan Januzaj and Andreas Pereira who have played for their first team, I thought Ryan and Sheyi Ojo were excellent.

“Sheyi is in a really good moment for us. You saw that with his hat-trick on Monday against Middlesbrough and then his performance against United.”