Darren Fletcher has spoken today about his life since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008, an illness which threatened to finish his football career.

United’s vice-captain has singled out Sir Alex Ferguson for praise, thanking the manager for everything he did for him and his family.

For everything he has done for me in football, the way he gave me my chance, the way he believed in me, I will always be grateful to him for that. But he was also a really caring, kind individual who did everything to help me and protect me when I was ill. For me and my family. He gave me the time off I needed, told me not to worry about contract situations, told me to think of my health and my family first; to forget about football and just focus on that. He was constantly there for me. There were times when I went in looking terrible and he told me I looked great. He’d just try to give me a bit of confidence. I owe him everything in my career but he rose to a different level for me in the way he supported me through this. Even after he retired he would still be on the phone, to see how my recovery was going. Sometimes he would call just to speak to my wife. He knew she was probably suffering more than me. It was killing her seeing me, knowing I wasn’t the same person because I was ill. He’d be on the phone to her for half an hour. We are very grateful to him for that.