TF Chronicles: Midfield Generals and Lightbulb Moments..

Whilst watching the recent United v Spurs game, the camera cut unexpectedly to Darren Fletcher. It was a fairly typical Fletcher close-up. He was pushing his neck forward. His eyes were bulging. And he was screaming instructions at Rafael.

I thought back to the team sheet, and particularly the offensive players:  Nani, Carrick, Park, Hernandez & Berbatov. An array of talent for sure. But vocal ? Galvanising ? Communicative ? Nope, none of them.

Watching wave after wave of subsequent attacks i kept my eye on Darren. He never stopped orchestrating. Pulling strings. Screaming. The commentators never mentioned it. And, typically with TV coverage, the camera’s often lost him. Fletcher was dominant in that game. I watched it again that evening, and the nonsense around Nani’s goal deflected any opportunity for anyone to speak positively of Darren’s influence.

Which leads me to my point.

Sometimes a player takes a game by the scruff of its (badly designed white Nike) collar, and influences every aspect without needing to technically do amazing things. Fergie has always had his generals on the pitch, and with the game becoming (hello Arsene) more technical than ever, I think the role of orchestrator is more important than ever.

One memory that will always stick with me, was from the United v Chelsea game at OT in mid January 2003. (Yep, THAT Forlan injury time winner). I arrived at OT mid morning (midday kick off) back in the days where season tickets were booklets and I could just roll up pre kick off and get a tout ticket for a reasonable price. The beauty of the tout tickets was that you entered a bit of a lottery for where your seat might be. I split with my mate (rarely got two tout tickets together) and found my seat. I was FRONT ROW of the North Stand, bang on the halfway line. I’d never been so close to the pitch at a home game.
Barely three minutes into the game and something was very apparent:

Roy Keane. He was terrifying.

Being that close to the pitch, I could pretty much hear every word. He was THAT loud. He continually tore Becks, Phil Neville and old Easter Island Head new ar$£holes. I remember looking at the guy beside me in open mouthed astonishment after one Keano tirade at Wes Brown. We ended up winning that day with a incredible late winner from Diego, cue pandemonium. Well, cue pandemonium from 70,000 people and 10 players. Because Roy screamed a bit at the crowd and was then first back to the halfway line shouting instructions as he went. Even in injury time.

I came away from that game blown to pieces. Partly because of Forlan’s strike obviously, but more because I’d had a “lightbulb moment”. That moment of illumination that made me knowingly grin when I heard analysts praising Keane’s influence on games of football. Something that also came from this was a general mistrust of any journalist’s/blogger’s/pundit’s views on a game of football they didnt actually attend. You simply cant always see or hear everything when you’re in the hands of a broadcast director.

Sure, Wayne and Rio shout and scream a lot, but they they don’t conduct the orchestra. They don’t carry through the game-plan. Ryan Giggs has learnt it, but whenever he or Fletcher are missing from a starting line-up i always feel a slight unease. I look around the Citeh and Gooners teams sometimes and see a lot of talent. But I don’t see the leaders, I don’t see the players who can pull strings as well as bark orders and intimidate. Show me a championship winning team that didn’t have its Souness, Vieira, Keane or Terry

Well i think its time to acknowledge one modest Scotsman’s influence on our recent success.

Stand up Darren Fletcher.

You’re the first name on my team-sheet.

And yes, you really had to be there.


About Steve Ferguson 886 Articles
Steve Ferguson had taken over & re-branded The Faithful MUFC website back in the summer of 2014 and is now the owner and editor of the site. Steve, from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, is a 35-year-old life long Manchester United fan, travelling over the globe to see the Reds play. Steve has been lucky enough to be at both the 1999 and 2008 Champions League finals, seeing Manchester United lift the biggest trophy in the World, none more exciting than that faithful night in Barcelona in 99. The website is a blog, but also hopes to deliver the latest Manchester United news from around the internet too, linked up with our growing twitter account which is @TheFaithfulMUFC, give it a follow as we will follow you back as soon as we can.


  1. Very good article on the now loved Fletcher. Was given a torrid time by United fans earlier in his career (Fergie’s lovechild etc) – in fact until very recently indeed – but many now coming round to the idea that he is actually a very competent central midfielder. Darren has excelled in recent seasons and there were very early indications that he could well have the character (as you allude to), energy and athleticism, tactical nous and box to box potential to emulate some of the fantastic leaders /l egends that have graced our colours in years gone by – and yes that does include the peerless Roy Keane and Bryan Robson.

    Lets hope our fans can learn from this lesson, as we hear similar grumblings / reservations around some of our midfield talents; The likes of Gibson, Carrick and Park presently feeling the wrath of an OT crowd still uncomfortable with the “lack of spending on big names” – – despite the subtle procurement of the extremely talented duo of Hernandez and Smalling, and the astutely evolved squad bursting with young, raw talent.

  2. When he was at the club, Roy Keane used to give Fletch a hard time, Fletch has admitted. Clearly Keane could see the potential in Fletch as a youngster and didn’t want him to waste that talent.

  3. Brilliant post. Great to point out what Fletcher did vs Spurs, people might start to realise that he could really be the one we need to gee the players up when it’s needed.

    On another note, our seats are right where you sat for that Chelsea game, though my brother’s is 2nd row, and mine is 6th row. We always enjoy being so close to the action when we manage to make it to OT.

    Well done on a very good article.

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