Darren Fletcher’s performance and influence at the game against Valencia is a culmination of resolve and fitness struggles. All supporters of the club need to understand the very essence of what has happened here and why Manchester United, the club, needs to be commended. In the most recent times, several players have continued to have fitness struggles while the club continued to support and rehabilitate. Wes Brown, Owen Hargreaves, and Rio Ferdinand had repeated injuries of different sorts and were able to come back and play a few games. None of those players every fully recovered and their play was not at a level of fitness that would be considered better that 80 percent. They played the bit parts as necessary and certainly showed a high level of dedication even though they were not totally fit.
With the likes of Di Maria on the radar of United, one might think twice before writing off Darren Fletcher as an inferior compromise to the Argentine’s talent. Darren Fletcher looked very healthy against Valencia. The toll of surgery and chronic intestinal disorder on Fletcher was extremely evident in the wavering games of last year’s Premier league season. While the pre-season tour showed promise for Fletcher, his level of fitness was not proximate to what he needs to combat the rigors of an entire domestic campaign. Fletcher has regained weight to a healthy level and showed much improved strength during the game, holding up play very well, and showing resilience in assistance to defend. His speed was much improved and stood out as leader on the team.
Van Gaal introduced his captaincy choices before the game with Wayne Rooney getting the affluence nod as captain. The Vidic vacuum and loss of Rio Ferdinand to QPR did leave a leadership deficit and before last night, Darren Fletcher was not confident enough in himself to provide effective leadership. One could see that leadership force grow during the pre-season but it was lacking the final touch, something to bring Fletcher back into the fray with authority. Van Gaal’s faith in Fletcher and rewarding him with the vice-captain’s role was step one but the Darren Fletcher goal in the 49th minute was the defining moment. The phoenix arose and from the ashes a new Darren Fletcher emerged and the gracious thanks to the club and fans for extended support was unmistakable on his face.
At 30 years old, Fletcher will have a short more years in the revival of his career at Manchester United but no doubt that this one-club man will be staying put. The influence and experience that Fletcher can bring to the United youngsters will prove valuable since Giggs has retired to the sidelines. His role on the field as a captain for the team will serve the purpose extremely well under Van Gaal’s management style. Fletcher has been given the role of COO and Van Gaal will use him as an effective manager of the processes on the field and management of the players. That is the LVG style and the addition of Giggs in an off-field role will provide consistency and congruence through Rooney and Fletcher. The setup is becoming more evident and nothing could be more exciting that seeing Darren Fletcher in the master plan.