Darren Fletcher was dubbed ‘the new David Beckham’ when playing for United’s youth team. He was spotted by a scout when he was just 11 and impressed Sir Alex Ferguson so much that he was asked to come to United for trials four times a year. Roy Keane was impressed by the lad and tried to use Fletcher’s Irish mother as a means to get him to play for the Republic. Obviously, with Fergie as the gaffer, there was no chance of anyone prising such a promising young talent from the grips of Scotland, for whom Fletcher has now committed himself to.
In the 2003-2004 season, Fletcher was really given his chance to shine, starting 25 games for the club. Some reds were extremely supportive of the United youngster, desperately wanting to see some genuine talent emerge from our youth set up, whilst others were rather disparaging of the young Scot. Come the end of the season, he got his place in the FA Cup final over Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, starting in the centre of midfield alongside Roy Keane. He was also named captain of Scotland at this time, despite being only 20 years old.
The next two seasons really saw Fletcher establish himself in the starting XI, much to the dismay of some reds. With Keano playing fewer and fewer games, and Butt and P Neville moving on, Ferguson failed to find a better player to start for United in midfield, despite attempting to do so with the likes of Djemba Djemba and Kleberson.
Fletcher’s lowest and highest point as an individual at United came within the space of a week. The injured Roy Keane watched on as Fletcher played on the right in United’s humiliating 4-1 defeat by Middlesbrough. In an MUTV interview which was pulled before it was aired, Keane said, “I can’t understand why people in Scotland rave about Darren Fletcher.” Six days later, United faced Chelsea, undefeated in 40 games, who were cruising to a second successive league title. Fletcher was the hero that day, scoring the only goal of the game to reinstate some pride to the club.
Still, support for Fletcher has dwindled over the years, with many feeling Ferguson has given Fletcher more time than he deserves just because of their shared nationality. The signing of Carrick kept Fletcher out of the starting lineup for the most part, as United stomped on to win their first title since 2003. The additions of Hargreaves and Anderson to the squad, who have done nothing but impress so far this season, have left Fletcher with little playing time. When United have no injuries, there’s little chance of him even making the bench, which has been the case on a number of occasions already.
Ferguson has spoken about Fletcher, claiming we need players like him at United. “I feel for Darren Fletcher,” Ferguson said. “I have not been playing him in the last two or three games but he is a fantastic player for United. He never lets us down. He plays well in all the big games. He must be feeling down but I will make sure he gets his opportunities because you need players like him in the squad.”
Would you be sad to see Fletcher sold this summer? Do United still have a need for him?