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Have We Been Too Quick To Slate Fletcher?

Darren Fletcher ArsenalDarren Fletcher is a player United fans have scoffed at over the past few seasons, with the majority believing he is not good enough for our club and has kept his place for longer than he deserves primarily because of his shared nationality with the gaffer. As a youngster, he was tipped to be “the next David Beckham”, but like most players predicted to fill the boots of a great player, has failed miserably in this task.

The season before last, when United only had the League Cup to console us for yet another titleless season, Fletcher was poor. He was even worse the season before. Despite Michael Carrick not being top of our most wanted list in the summer preceding our last title, he was clearly a more sufficient central midfielder than Fletcher, and made the difference to our team.

The additions of Owen Hargreaves and Anderson appeared to signal the end of Fletcher’s United career, with Ferguson already having a tough enough task to pick two central midfielders from the array of talent we now have on offer.

In January, Fletcher was asked about his position within the club. “Fair play to Anderson. When Paul Scholes got injured, he came in and has been great. The manager has stuck by him, which is what he does when you perform well,” he said. “We will see how things pan out at the end of the season in terms of games played and what I have contributed to the squad. But I’m not thinking about that just now. I’m looking short term, and I’d like to win a few trophies. My only focus is on being ready when the manager needs me.”

Fletcher has started just 9 of our 39 games in the league, Champions League and FA Cup this season, losing out on his place to our four other quality midfielders. We have won 7 of those, drawn 1 and lost 1. We’ve scored 26 goals in those games, conceding 7. In his last three games against Lyon, Newcastle and Arsenal he’s played a blinder, one of if not our best player on the park in each outing. He had Fabregas in his back pocket against Arsenal and tamed Nicky Butt and Joey Barton when playing Newcastle.

Sir Alex Ferguson has today spoken of his praise for Fletcher, claiming he is a true professional. “Darren has shown he is a true professional,” he said. “When you give people good contracts you hope they will become like that. He is a terrific example of a professional to any young player. I keep talking about Bobby Charlton’s book, and his frustration when he was not in the team at 19 and had to be patient. Darren Fletcher epitomises that patience and now he’s back in the squad and everyone recognises his abilities. It’s a great credit to the lad.”

Fletcher turned 24 in February, which when compared to players like Rooney, Ronaldo, Fabregas and Anderson, to name a few, leaves Fletcher behind in terms of development. However, in the grand scheme of things, has years ahead of him in his playing career.

I’ll hold my hands up, I’ve certainly given Fletcher more than his fair share of slatings over the years, and I haven’t changed my mind based on his brilliant displays over the past few weeks. But his new found form certainly gives the Fletcher fans a case to argue that maybe the best of the Scottish midfielder is on its way.

Do you think you have been wrong about Fletcher?


About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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17 Comments

  1. pdm says:

    ah for gods sake.. fletcher does well when he plays in a defensive midfield role with ANOTHER DEFENSIVE midfielder minding him. If he wasn’t there then anderson would have won any ball he did. Basically fletcher did well to get on the ball a lot but actually prevented our team setting a rhythm to get rooney and ronaldo into the game. Fletcher must never play in an important game against a good team as good teams will allow him get the ball and mark our good players because they realise he is as effective as jermain pennant.. refer to the milan game last year. NOw forget this fletcher is good rubbish and pray we dont use him in an critical situation.

  2. Shahzeem Pasha says:

    plays it simple
    tracks back often, can fill in at right back.
    been outstanding when called upon especially against strong teams(Arsenal,Lyon) and that winner he scored agaisnt chelsea sometime back
    Like phil neville, hes a player ud like to have in your squad.

  3. jimmy Bob says:

    guy is good player but suffers in comparison to other untd midfielders of recent years
    scholes keane robson ince beckham giggs etc
    he rarely lets you down but personally i

    dont feel he is a 1st teamer on a regular basis

  4. Salford Red says:

    i certainly feel for Fletch , he’s been with us since a long time even though he’s not in the starting XI regularly , a decent player to have in your squad , has done well when ever called up in the squad + he’s very versatile like O’Shea & has shown glimpse of his talent time and again

    why you guys go on slating him is beyond me , i for one want him to stay with United

  5. denton davey says:

    Agree with Salford Red; I’d like Darren to be kept on for his versatility and the insurance he offers.

    I also like the fact taht when he is paired with another defensive midfielder – especially Carrick against Roma last year and again last night against Lyon – he seems to be at his best.

    I’ve seen quite a bit of talk about last night match – and the “formations” and “strategy” that SAF deployed. The gist of these comments has been that this present collection of players enables the gaffer to mix-and-match quite effectively and, in so doing, to present him with quite a range of options.

    Personally, I think that the team plays best with two defensive midfielders and four attackers although – being a fan – I would prefer six attackers !

  6. jsos says:

    agree with salford and davey. fletch is good for us to have and as long as he is willing to play sporadically and give his all while he is out on the pitch… i am happy to still be calling him a red. he busted balls out there yesterday. and you cant say that for most of the club that day

  7. Prasac says:

    Has he did last night something Robbie Savage can’t do?Few good displays over the years…even Djemba Djemba can produce if he’s given that number of chance.

  8. Tom F says:

    I have always backed Fletch. He is quality whn playing in his proper role and he may not provide a thrill a minute but his no nonsense style says a lot. He started against Roma in last seasons mauling and it’s unfair to write the guy off when he is asked to play on the wings.

    I have always supported him, especially on this blog as everyone moans about the poor bastard, as well as Carrick. I am glad to have the two british midfielders playing for United.

  9. Tre says:

    He’s the perfect squad player and he’s dedicated to the club. I really like Fletcher, not as a regular starter but as a squad player who steps up in big games later in the season, like now, to fill in the gaps. Plus, I think it’s great to have a Scot in the squad as well as someone who’s come up from the academy.

  10. Nick says:

    Fletch is the ultimate big-game player. big European games, FA Cup ties, league games against the Arsenals, Liverpools and Chelseas – i’m struggling to recall an occasion where he has played in those circumstances and been any less than outstanding (Milan away last season maybe, but who wasn’t abysmal that day?). The guy above saying ‘pray we don’t have to call on him in a critical situation’ clearly hasn’t seen Darren put in man of the match displays against Arsenal on more than one occasion, or against Liverpool at OT last season.

    I actually agree with the main body of the article when it’s said that Fletch was poor the season before last and the season before that. he had his good games and his poor ones, but invariably he suffered from being played out of position on the right or from basically being used as Keano’s ‘legs’ when the great man’s mobility started to wane. last season he really stepped up whenever called upon in the first team, and he’s continued that this season.

    No-one would say he should be starting every week or be first-choice ahead of the other fantastic options we have in central midfield, but the constant failure to recognise just what a terrifically valuable squad player he is does my head in. Fergie said last year that it’s the Fletcher’s and O’Shea’s as much as the Rooney’s and Ronaldo’s that win the team trophies and he’s not far wrong.

    Last night for the first time at the match I heard the ‘famous’ Darren Fletcher song to the tune of 500 Miles by the Proclaimers sung on the Stretford End (admittedly only by a handful of us), and long overdue it was. Hopefully this is a sign that gradually people are starting to realise Fletch’s true worth (although the complete failure by those around me to recognise the quality of that outside-of-the-foot pass to Rooney late on makes me think it’s going to be a veeery gradual process).

  11. lovedale says:

    I didnt know where to put this:
    http://101greatgoals.magnify.net/item/J8PGKCWM22MHHVY9
    Anderson – a tackle and a brilliant cross field accurate pass – all in two seconds. Where the fuck would you play this guy?

  12. Sagar says:

    he has certainly had more than his fair share of critics.

    in this day and age people are too impatient with players…some players bloom a bit later

  13. Taehr says:

    He must continue this form

  14. denton davey says:

    Lovedale – thanks for that link. to Anderson’s supreme skill. It was perhaps the most memorable moment of skill in the match. The kid has been an absolute and complete revelation in midfield but, strangely, did not look entirely comfortable in a more attacking role, playing as a support striker/link man against Lyon. This is really surprising because that’s what we were led to believe this is his “best position” – and why he was signed as a ” replacement” of the GingerNinja.

    For me, Anderson would be the first midfielder on the team sheet whenevrer possible. He seems to link up very well with Hargreaves, Carrick and Fletcher but not so well with Scholes because Paul/Anderson seem to get in each other’s way.

    With regard to Fletcher, the “comments” in ManchesterEveningNews – in response to the article in which Fergy is quoted as praising his fellow countryman – have been overwhelmingly positive. I think that this is indicative of the slow evolution of opinion in his favour. Also, he is properly compared with Phil Neville – another player of unlimited enthusiasm and somewhat limited skill – who frequently rose to the big occasion when called upon. I was sorry to see Pip leave OT because he has shown in his time at everton that he is a guy who would be an asset to any team.

    It looks like Fletcher is himself evolving into that kind of stalwart journeyman kinda like Massimo Ambrosini for ACMilan who only gets in the game when one of Gattuso/Pirlo/Seedorf/Kaka is crocked but who is good enough to play for the 2006 World Champions. And, if Fletcher can provide that level of service for TheLads then – yes indeed – people have been far too quick to write him off (and far too stupid to trust SAF’s judgement !)

  15. austin reynolds says:

    glad were “nearly” all in agreement about fletcher. after reading pdms’ comment at the top i thought , “here we go” and was reading to write a stinging reply!
    anyway, having read the rest of ur thoughts ive calmed down now and dont even feel the need to defend fletch cos evry1 else has.
    there seems to be a good core of real football people, and proper utd fans commenting on this site that understand the game, which is refreshing and heart warming when i think of some of the buffoons ive argued with on other talk forums like teamtalk!
    keep it up boys……………… follow follow follow!

  16. austin reynolds says:

    one more point. fletcher is a lot more talented than people give him credit for.
    phil neville has been mentioned in comparison but in my opinion fletcher is a lot more talented, and although weve seen him put in some excellent mom displays i know he can play even better. the guy has it in him to play at a much higher level. he has an excellent football brain that i feel will blossom as his confidence grows.
    theres also not a player in the squad that can close down and press 2 or 3 opponents as well as fletch can.
    love him to bits.

  17. Gerry Armstrong says:

    For me Kevin darren fletcher is below par. He simply is not good enough for la liga. He is a terrible footballer. Park Ji Sung on the other hand will blossom to be greater than the likes of Fernando Gago and Jose Maria Gutierrez Hernandes. His quality in the air is similar to a bullet header by Ronaldinho, Darren Flatcher could not even fit into Levante and the poor football that they play.

    Love Gerry X0X0X0X

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