Darren Fletcher is celebrating his birthday today but he must have lots on mind as his long career at Manchester United seems to be over and he will have some tough decisions to make over the next few days.
The 31 year old should be in the best years of his career but unfortunately injuries and other problems have stopped him from getting on the pitch in recent seasons. Fletcher has been linked with West Ham and West Brom as well as many other teams in the last few weeks so it will be interesting to see where he ends up but he could definitely add something to a lot of teams.
Fletcher joined Manchester United as an 11 year old and would sign his first professional contract with the club on his 17th birthday and helped the reserve team win the Manchester Senior Cup during the 1999-00 season. However, his progress was halted by injuries and he had to wait until the 12th March 2003 to make his first team debut in a Champions League game against Basel. During the following campaign he began to get more opportunities and even started in the FA Cup final win over Millwall in May 2004. But he was still in and out of the team and just couldn’t make the central midfield position his own, and had to wait until the 1st January 2005 to score his professional goal in a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough.
After allegedly being criticised by Roy Keane in a TV interview in October 2005, Fletcher began to put in more commanding performances from then on and was always on the team sheet for the important games. On the 6th November he scored the only goal in a win over Chelsea which put to an end their 40 game unbeaten run.
Over the next two seasons he struggled to break into the team again after further signings were made but he did manage to pick up a Champions League winners medal at the end of the 2007-08 season. In the opening months of the following season he was given more chances in the team and scored three times. Arguably the biggest moment of his career came in the semi final of the Champions League against Arsenal where he was sent off and would miss the final. This made many realise how important he was to the team. Inter manager at the time Jose Mourinho said. “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”
The 2009-10 saw Fletcher consolidate his place in the team and was very influential in one of the most dramatic Manchester Derbies as he scored twice in 4-3 win over City. During the campaign he was also named as the club’s vice captain and for his performances he was even named in the PFA Team of the Year.
After this ulcerative colitis kept him out of action for long spells and it is good to see him starting to get his career back on track and if he can join a club where he will play regular football then he will definitely be a consistent player and someone that will pass on a lot of experience to the younger players. He has played 342 times for Manchester United during some of their most successful years which just shows how good of a player he is.
The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “There isn’t a nicer boy at the club and he’s a star professional. He’s a fantastic character, a brilliant boy, and he’ll does his best as he always does. He has started sitting in the front of the back four and that could be his role in the future.”