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|Birthday||February 1, 1984|
Darren Fletcher, once firmly in the starting XI at Old Trafford, has endured a torrid few seasons where his career has been put on hold thanks to a prolonged bout of ulcerative colitis. A combative, ball-winning midfielder in his prime, the Scottish international is still a firm fan favourite at the club.
He has been restricted to just 20 appearances over the last two years, and for a man that was wrongly robbed of his chance to appear in a Champions League final, his forced period on the sidelines must be doubly galling. His game has always been based on boundless energy and a determination to shut down the opposition, so to see him playing so conservatively in his few outings last season was a clear indication Fletcher was not back to his best.
By his own admission, a return to the first-team fold doesn’t look likely until at least Christmas, and is beginning to linger in the back of the mind that ‘Fletch’ might not make a serious return at all if the condition cannot be successfully managed. This would be a big loss to the club, not only in the respect that he has worked his way up to the first-team from the youth academy, but also because he would act as the perfect midfield partner to Carrick. His ball-winning mentality would perfectly compliment and shield the more composed, continental style of play Carrick is renowned for.
If an expected midfield signing arrives at Old Trafford before the deadline, it will be difficult to see Fletcher forcing his way back into the starting line-up. However, the determination that characterises him as a footballer could make you question otherwise. Though it would be a shame not to see the former Scotland captain take to the field for the club again, he has provided fans with a lifetime’s worth of hard graft and thoroughly commendable performances.
One of those whom you can say is “proud to put on the shirt”.
By Josh Butler