In that infamous interview with MUTV, Roy Keane tore a strip off Fletcher, saying, “I can’t understand why people in Scotland rave about Darren Fletcher.” Ouch, but it was an opinion most reds agreed with at the time.
A few years down the line, Fletcher has won over the vast majority of us, putting in great performances against the top teams, this year showing his best form on a regular basis.
However, Fletcher believes it was Keane’s strong influence in the Scot’s younger days which has helped him become the player he is today.
“I’m the only one still here from my year group,” said Fletcher. “There were others who could control, pass and shoot the ball as good as me but I think football is played in your head. It is the way you deal with everything: being at Manchester United, the expectation, the crowd, the nervousness, all of that pressure. The game is played up there before you go on the pitch, and I had that strength. When I won my first medal, for the FA Cup, I was still staying in one room, in digs. That was where I went after the game. It kept you grounded. We didn’t have to clean boots but we had jobs. Mine was to pump up the first-team footballs to the right size. If you didn’t get it right, you got told in no uncertain terms by the likes of Roy Keane and Gary Neville. That was enough.”
Fletcher goes on to expand on his feelings for Keane, who had a massive influence on the Scot.
“Roy was probably the biggest influence on my career,” Fletcher added. “He would come down hard on me if I ever did anything wrong but he made me realise what it meant to be a Manchester United player. I can remember coming in from training one day and checking my mobile phone for text messages. Well, that was it. He absolutely hammered me, all the way into the gym. He was a great influence, really. If Roy had a go at you, he did it because he cared. He was the best captain you could wish for. He would tear you to shreds on the pitch if you gave away the ball, ‘get your effing touch right, effing this, effing that’ but, as soon as you got into the dressing room, it was over. He was a winner. I’ve met dedicated professionals but he had something else.”
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.