A sage like resilience and a gladiator like courage are true traits of our very own midfield’s unsung hero- a new born Darren Fletcher. A couple of years ago one of the finest midfielder to break into Manchester United team from the academy was at the risk of losing his glowing football career due to a severe bowel illness. It was widely speculated that his career is done and dusted.
He went for surgery in early part of 2013. The club and then manager Sir Alex Ferguson stood by him in spite of being fully aware that he may not be able to kick ball in future forget about reaching to his previous standards even if the surgery went on to be a success. But as they say ‘Fortune favours the brave’ and it certainly favoured the Edinburgh born midfielder. He made his debut in a 3-0 win against Aston Villa on 15th December 2013 after undergoing a successful surgery. He went on to make 7 appearances of remaining 12 games for David Moyes'(Ryan Giggs’) side in latter half of last season.
Shambles of midfield are well documented and it is no secret that the club is in the market for central midfielders. In the beginning of preseason there were doubts regarding Fletcher’s fitness to play his part week in week out in the coming season.
On came the preseason and the Scottish captain blew everyone’s minds. Playing like Fletcher of the yore, he was looking into his elements for better part of preseason. The games against LA Galaxy and Valencia were the pick of the bunch in my opinion. He reminded us that we still have that grit and steel in centre midfield. A central midfielder who can shield the defense and also distribute the ball out to attackers thereby helping to start blitzing counterattacks. These are the exact kind of traits which have been missing from Manchester United’s midfield for a while.
In his heydays before succumbing to illness his importance in the squad was appreciated by rival managers. Here is the excerpt from José Mourinho’s column for The Daily Telegraph on eve of 2009 UEFA Champions League finals in Rome- “Man United will miss Darren Fletcher. Fletcher is more important than people think. His work in midfield, especially in the midfield ‘wars’, in crucial matches is very important. Man United will miss his pace and aggression in defensive actions: he ‘eats’ opponents in defensive transition. In possession he is not magic like Ryan Giggs or a superb passer like Paul Scholes, but he is dynamic, he makes movements, he creates spaces. I like him a lot and I believe it is not an easy decision to replace him.”
Zoom 5 years down the line and his words somehow seem prophetic. This is exactly what Old Trafford faithfuls are craving in midfield. He is no less than a new signing going by his performances in preseason. Yesterday’s game against Valencia at Old Trafford saw homecoming of a rejuvenated Darren Fletcher. The emotions that were visible on his face whilst celebrating his goal gave not only me but every Red all over the globe goosebumps.
It seems all his hard work and perseverance has finally born fruit. He has been appointed vice-captain of team by new management led by Louis van Gaal. A player who lives and breathes Manchester United. A tale of grit and glory seems straight from fairy tales but it is happening in reality for the Scot. If this is anything to go by we may soon have the Fletcher of yesteryears back with a bang!