Darren Fletcher is raring to go and cannot wait for pre-season training to begin in earnest this summer. It will be his first full pre-season since 2010, and he is ready for his next battle at Manchester United.
Speaking at the launch of REUNITED 14, Fletcher spoke about his excitement ahead of the forthcoming season and the chance to work under the new manager Louis van Gaal.
Everyone connected with the club was delighted to see the 30-year-old midfielder return to the squad in December last year, having finally overcome his battle to return to full health. Fletcher had been struggling with the chronic stomach complaint ulcerative colitis, and it took the Scot three years to manage the illness and return to a physical condition that would allow him to play top-level professional football again.
He started 12 matches under David Moyes last season as United struggled to a seventh place finish, but he fully accepts a new challenge has arrived in the form of his new manager van Gaal and Spanish teammate Ander Herrera. With United still looking to strengthen in central midfield, Fletcher knows it will be a battle of a different kind to force his way into the manager’s plans. The challenge that awaits Fletcher is one he won’t shy away from though. During his rehabilitation there were question marks over whether he would even play again, and having now put those fears behind him, it appears that he is relishing the new era at Old Trafford.
“It’s a challenge, sure, but football’s a challenge.
“There are lots of ups and downs. I love the club. I’ve been here since I was 15 and there have been disappointments in terms of personal health and disappointing seasons like last year. But I think a bright season’s ahead. I know it’s easy to talk about it – you have to go out there and do it and that’s what I’m going to do.
“Players always talk about how important pre-season is and I haven’t been in a position to do pre-season for about three years so I’m dead excited about it.
“It almost brings you back to a level playing field with everyone else – you’re back at the same time as everyone else, rather than playing catch-up all season, which can be difficult. It’s the ideal scenario for me. I’m really looking forward to building up my fitness base as best as I can.
“Knowing a big part of my game is based on fitness this pre-season will be vital for me for the season ahead. We’re all in the same position – we all need to impress the new manager and I’m no different. Every opportunity you get you have to show that you’re good enough to be in his plans for the rest of the season.
“I think all the players are looking at this as a fresh start and want to get in front of him as soon as possible, get your name in the team and make sure you’ve involved in the session, because I think it’s going to be exciting. There are some new signings and a real buzz around the place again. Everybody’s looking forward in great anticipation to the manager coming in and him getting his ideas across.”
The importance of this pre-season for Darren Fletcher cannot be overstated. Many will admit that he was not at his best when he returned to the squad last season. Of course the whole side struggled under David Moyes, and most players suffer for form when they return from such a long injury lay-off. Fletcher will need this pre-season more than most players and should he come out of it unscathed, it would not surprise anyone to see Fletcher play a key role for United next season. With all the experienced players that have left the club this summer, Fletcher’s will be a key voice in the dressing room. The one-time academy graduate will be vital in guiding the younger players and helping the new signings settle into life at the club. Darren Fletcher has always been a fighter, and it looks as if he has one more fight left in him.