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Darren Fletcher right to put health ahead of football

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Phil McNulty | 16:23 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Darren Fletcher's health has finally taken priority over football - but his attempt to conquer illness while at the same time playing his part for Manchester United and Scotland is a measure of the ethics that make him such an admired professional.

Fletcher made only one start for United because of illness after 1 March last season and remained an unused substitute in the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona at Wembley, a game he would surely have started had he been in peak condition.

He last played, and scored, in United's 2-2 draw with Benfica in the Champions League at Old Trafford last month and will now take an extended break from the game in an attempt to recover from ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition.

As United have recognised, Fletcher's health is now of prime importance. They also acknowledged that his desire to continue to represent club and country may have compromised his well-being.

The 27-year-old's career now takes second place to his rehabilitation, but his absence is a blow to both United - whose midfield resources are already stretched - and Scotland.

Darren Fletcher scores for Manchester United against Benfica in the Champions League in November

Darren Fletcher scores for Manchester United against Benfica in the Champions League in November. Photo: Getty

Pat Nevin has been a regular observer of Fletcher for United, but particularly with Scotland as a BBC pundit, and he told me: "It is really bad news but the good thing for Darren is that Manchester United will ensure he gets the best possible treatment and his good health is paramount. He will have the finest professionals around him to help him recover."

And he agreed that Fletcher's own personality and pride in playing for United and Scotland may have counted against him as he tried to cope with debilitating illness.

Nevin said: "I watch him regularly for Scotland and they have not just built a team around him as a player, they have built it around his ethics and approach to the game. He will be hugely missed, although everyone will want him to take all the time he needs before coming back.

"He is honest and incredibly hard-working, so when you examine those qualities it is no surprise he has tried to play through his illness time and time again until he was no longer able to do so. This is why he is so highly rated by Sir Alex Ferguson and Craig Levein.

"All we can hope now - and what both United and Scotland will be hoping - is that they can find a solution and treat his illness so can come back and start playing again. The type of personality he is can be seen in his game. He turns up for every Scotland game, whether it is friendly or competitive, and gives the same amount of effort every time.

"The other players will be able to see that if a Manchester United player turns up with that attitude then they should have it as well. He has never taken Scotland lightly - he mirrors how a footballer should feel about playing for his country and a club like United.

"There was a time at the start of his career when the Manchester United fans never took to him, which I could never get, but they appreciate him now and it was no coincidence that Sir Alex would trust him implicitly to perform in the big games for United.

"I also think United should be given credit for taking the step of making sure Darren puts his health before anything else."

Darren Fletcher in training

Fletcher's absence may leave Man Utd's midfield lacking in a degree of experience. Photo: Getty

The temporary removal of Fletcher from United's ranks presents Ferguson with a problem in an area of the pitch where it is widely accepted he needs quality reinforcements.

Fletcher was an influential and energetic figure in central midfield, where Ferguson is now left with Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park and Darron Gibson. Tom Cleverley is emerging as fine young player but is currently sidelined.

And while Phil Jones has been used in that area, Ferguson may need to call on him to fill the vacancy left in central defence after Nemanja Vidic was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney can also fill in, while Paul Pogba is a gifted but unproven option.

The United boss said only last week he did not intend to sign anyone in the January transfer window. But with Fletcher and Vidic now out for some time, he may need to think again.

Examining the options open to Ferguson, there is no doubt Fletcher would have been central to United's plans this season had he been healthy enough to continue.

He is now starting his journey to recovery - with Nevin suggesting he may need to show patience not traditionally associated with British footballers deprived of the opportunity to play by injury or illness.

Nevin said: "Footballers as a group, and I was exactly the same, kind of half-listen to doctors and the medical advice we are given. If we are told we are going to be out for eight weeks we instantly accept that it will be four weeks - that is just the way the vast majority of British footballers are.

"We tend to think doctors err on the side of caution and think we can come back sooner. Maybe that is what Darren has done in the past, which is not a negative but a sign of his desire to play. It's just the way we are as footballers.

"It now looks like it has gone past that stage now. He will sit down with the doctors and do it right, which will hopefully mean he gets well and back playing football, although his good health must come before everything else."

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    Desperate stuff for the bloke.

    Really hope he makes a complete recovery as soon as possible. It sounds like he's in a lot of pain and a complete break from football is the only option.

    From a Liverpool fan.

  • Comment number 2.

    I suffer from something similar to Darren Fletcher and know how hard it can be to cope with just going about in everyday life and have regularly had to have time of school to cope so have huge respect for the man. A real role model for anyone who watches the game and hopefully he can put himself first for once now and hopefully beat what is a horrible condition raising awareness no doubt in the process.

  • Comment number 3.

    I always thought Fletcher was an underrated player, offers bite, energy and a canny eye of pass.
    Since he hasn't featured much in the midfield so far I think we can cope, now though I think Fergie will be sorely tempted to dip into the transfer market at January. It'll mean Jones shifting there paired with Carrick, in my opinion this will be our strongest pair until Cleverly and Fletcher return

  • Comment number 4.

    This is such a shame.
    He is one of the most unsung heroes in the Premiership and definetly the best box-to-box midfielder in the league. He is absolutely integral to United's midfield and far to under rated by the majority of football fans.

    Really hope he can get over this illness and get back to full fitness, so he can go out there and prove all of his critics wrong.

  • Comment number 5.

    UC is a condition with no cure at present so he cannot recover from it, he can only hope for extended periods of remission. I have been living with it for over 10 years and when it's really bad it's like your intestines are being squeezed out like a dishcloth! Wish him well but he is very lucky to be able to take an extended break, get paid full salary and still have a job to return to if he gets remission. It might force Fergie to finally shell out for a top quality, match winning midfielder now, rather than persisting with Anderson and co.

  • Comment number 6.

    Many argued that the reason we didn't win the champions league in 2009 was because he got sent off for that perfect challenge against arsenal in the semi's making him suspended.

    He's a true, old fashioned, workhorse, never stops running. He may not be a class act like David Silva but what he lacks in class he makes up for with dogged determination. In my opinion, especially in modern day football, that makes him valuable.

    Lets hope he has a speedy recovery.

    Oh, and if the soul_patch_of_david_villa calls him a british plodder...

  • Comment number 7.

    Great blog Phil.

    Losing Fletcher is a big blow, but of course health must come before everything. Quality players are hard to come in January, but maybe United can bring in some experience on a short-term deal a la Henrik Larsson in 2008.

    David Beckham maybe?

  • Comment number 8.

    As another person living with UC it's always inspirational to see a professional athlete who can cope with the disease and still manage to play at a top level. Right now he has to take a break, but I'm sure Darren will be back at it as soon as he feels fit.

    Best of luck to you Darren, thanks for setting an example for all of us who battle this disease with you everyday.

  • Comment number 9.

    @6

    IMHO his absence was the reason Utd lost. He's a big miss for them.

  • Comment number 10.

    It is devastating to learn that Fletcher will be out for the foreseeable future, I pray that he recovers quickly enough. But this has just confirmed my argument that Sir Alex Ferguson should open his chequebook and spend on the much-needed creative midfielder. This is an area that has been Manchester United's Achilles.
    The fact that Sir Alex knew this, and rightly concealed the truth to Fletcher's medical confidentiality, is worrying. He keeps saying that United have a strong team/squad, yet we couldn't qualify from a relatively easy Champions League group, got dumped out of the Carling Cup by Crystal Palace (with all due respect) and were given a hiding by Man City AT HOME. I hope he sees the sense and signs a midfielder.
    Meanwhile, #GetWellSoonFletch.

  • Comment number 11.

    It's obviously a blow to Manchester Utd and Scotland, particularly in many ways the latter, since at national level you can't parachute someone in and it's not like Scotland have huge depth.

    I also rate Fletch because in an era when there are too many spoilt brats playing the beautiful game, he seems to stand in contrast as a committed and articulate professional. I hopes he makes a speedy recovery.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    4. At 18:09 13th Dec 2011, db_hornet wrote:
    This is such a shame.
    He is one of the most unsung heroes in the Premiership and definetly the best box-to-box midfielder in the league.

    ===================================================

    LOL. Best box-to-box midfielder?! What are Yaya Toure and Steven Gerrard then 2nd and third?!

  • Comment number 14.

    4. At 18:09 13th Dec 2011, db_hornet wrote:
    This is such a shame.
    He is one of the most unsung heroes in the Premiership and definetly the best box-to-box midfielder in the league.

    ===================================================

    Lol. As if Fletcher is better than Yaya Toure and Gerrard! I know he's having a rough time with illness, but be serious!!

  • Comment number 15.

    @Supermario_45 He can be, for example against arsenal in the semi's of the champions league 2009

  • Comment number 16.

    UC is a terribly debilitating illness that can be beaten as as a past sufferer myself, time is the best healer. The medical technology is now better than ever and some of the drugs would make playing football impossible. As a fit and "healthy" individual Darren will learn to manage the condition and we look forward to him on a football pitch soon.

  • Comment number 17.

    There are a few things that really need saying here before this thread gets silly.

    Firstly, whatever United fans thought of Fletcher when he first emerged, it is possible for people to change their mind. They came to rate him because of how well he progressed, in the face of some pretty hefty criticism. He turned into a solid, reliable midfielder. It's silly to call him "the best box-to-box midfielder" in the league when Yaya Toure is knocking around, and also when Fletcher doesn't quite play that role. It's also silly to suggest Fletcher not playing was the difference between United winning and losing a Champions League Final to Barcelona. They'd have lost anyway.

    However, what's not silly to show respect to his honest professionalism and his work ethic, which were also second to none, and also to point out that he did improve his game to a point where he became an important player for United. He isn't a world beater, but he's decent.

    It goes without saying that he deserves everyone's best wishes for a speedy recovery and I certainly hope his career can get back on track.

  • Comment number 18.

    @14 Please stick to one post when criticising the same post, seems a bit pointless and annoying (one could call it my ocd). Steven Gerrard is by no means the best box to box midfielder in the Prem at the moment, and definately not in the top 3. Yaya Toure for me simply blusters into tackles and half the time his shots go wide. Best box to box midfielder maybe not, but top 3 yes. IMHO the best box to box midfielder in the prem would be Alex Song at this moment in time, he's developed well and is coming into his own this season. Oh and before we go into the whole 'typical arsenal fan' I am a Manchester United fan. Shame to see Fletcher leave the game for a while, but his health comes first without a doubt and I'm sure he'll bounce back with the same determination he always has. I really rate Ravel Morrison, I think he's got a chance to show what he can do over the next few weeks if he gets a chance, but I do think we need to sign a top class midfielder. It's been apparent for a few seasons now that we need one, after all Giggs and Scholes couldn't keep defying their age.

  • Comment number 19.

    @12, United may well have not won in Rome with him in the team but it certainly wouldn't have been as humiliating.

    He's not the best box-to-box midfielder in the league, but he is good player and we will miss him badly. Get well soon Fletch.

  • Comment number 20.

    Always seemed overrated to me. Hardly one of the United greats from last 20 yrs. However the boy is obviously struggling, so wish him well.

    But please tone down on the accolades too much just because his circumstances are pretty tragic for the guy.

  • Comment number 21.

    I suffer with a very similar condition and there is no word in the English language that can describe how painful this is to have. The mental strength that Fletcher must have to cope with the agony of this and to train and be used in high pressure games is out of this world.

    I like many other United fans as well as football fans in general wish him all the best and a speedy recovery to a state of remission. He will be missed and I hope that other players take note of the highly professional manor which Fletcher has conducted himself in.

  • Comment number 22.

    At 19:04 13th Dec 2011, TheHeroesOf1966 wrote:

    Yaya Toure for me simply blusters into tackles and half the time his shots go wide.

    ====================================================

    Well, Mr. Toure has never been sent off for Manchester City and has scored more goals than Alex Song since he's been in the prem. I agree UTD need a new midfielder but I think most pressingly they need a holding player rather than a creative force.

  • Comment number 23.

    As a Scotsman and a UC sufferer I really wish him well. He always gives his all for both club and country and if he gets on top of the illness he can get back to his best.

  • Comment number 24.

    Fletcher is a much underrated player who can pass, tackle, provide authority in the middle of the park and even weigh in with a few goals. He gets damned with the faint praise of being simply nothing more than a hard worker/workhorse or a Fergie favourite by limited football minds unwilling or unable to acknowledge exactly how influential he had become for United before his illness. Post number 12 (Jesus the Teddy Bear) is a perfect example of this kind of myopia in action.

    None the less, we at United know how important he has been for us and wish him a speedy recovery.

  • Comment number 25.

    Fletcher has been an outstanding professional over the years, a credit to himself, his club and his country. I wish him a speedy recovery.

  • Comment number 26.

    ComeEnglandAway.

    I'm no Man U fan, but you underestimate Darren Fletcher. If you'd watch Man U play with him in the team then you'd see how integral he normally is to the team (since when has having 11 world beaters in a TEAM been the way forward?)

    United are going to lose a lot more games without him now. Can't see them winning the league this year.

  • Comment number 27.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 28.

    Such a shame, hope he recovers quickly.

    You can really see his quality when he comes up for Scotland games, perhaps in a different fashion to the role he has at United. I've been lucky to see a few great midfielders up here such as John Collins, Gary McAllister, Paul Lambert, but arguably none of them have had the same influence that Fletcher does on the current Scotland side. I think Pat Nevin is correct in his description, good luck to the guy.

  • Comment number 29.

    #20; I think you are as guilty of doing the lad down as others on here are for bestowing the 'accolades' on him. I would hardly call praising a battling style of football as an accolade though.

    There are not many who will go down as a legend at United so it's no disgrace for Fletcher no to be described as one. Fletch was generally known as a big game player at United and was a vital part of Fergie's game plan in many games (one that springs to mind is the 1-0 win at home against Chelsea a couple of seasons ago when Fletch had a blinder and scored the winning goal). He had a certain style and a certain job in the team and he usually performed both to great effect.

    Also, Toure has only been in the Prem for a season and already his level has dropped from his impressive first season..let's compare them in a few years. As for Gerrard, who can be compared to him in the modern English game? He is a class above most and is a leader for Liverpool whereas Fletch is more of a foot soldier for United to allow the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo (of old) and co to do their bit.

    I wish him all the best with this debilitating illness.

  • Comment number 30.

    Over the hill plodder. United would normally be just as good without him, although admittedly injuries have taken their toll. Saying that, wish him the best.

  • Comment number 31.

    @22 I was thinking, unrealistically but here we go, that we should sign Daniele De Rossi or even Lassana Diarra who's having a blinder of a season even though he isn't even a regular starter. They would add a bit of defensive stability to us and De Rossi in particular would be able to play probing passes to the likes of Rooney, Nani etc...

  • Comment number 32.

    Best wishes Darren Fletcher. True pro and have been a great player for United over the past 4-5 seasons. Hope you get back soon.

    http://footballalwayswins.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    @33
    Of course he would treacle, he would only get into the clubs from the midlands maybe!

  • Comment number 35.

    Before people start attacking the real soul patch, the guy above isn't him, he has many imitators but even he wouldn't come on a blog like this and say that. Don't particularly rate anything he says but the guys trying to wind people up like this in his name is in bad taste, especially on a blog like this IMO

    Feel sorry for Darren, wish him a speedy recovery

  • Comment number 36.

    @31 I think Lassana Diarra is a great shout he's a bundle of energy, with enough quality to distribute the ball around, and enough discipline know where to be defensively. What about Yann M'Vila? I think he looks excellent from what I've seen of him, rumours were that UTD were after Tiote not long ago aswell...

  • Comment number 37.

    Liverpool fan here. What a player darren fletcher was an is. He was instrumental in uniteds premier league and champs league success over the past 6 years. He will be sorely missed for united.

    Moving to the fergie point about lack of signings, I totally agree with some of the previous comments. Last season united were out played by barca, embarrassingly. If fergie thought a new unproven cleverly and carrick or Anderson were going to tackle barca again, he was very naive. United were and still are crying out for a sneijder and a nasri/ modric. Why hasn't he signed two??? They are desperate for two world class centre midfielders. If he doesn't get them in January or the summer then there will only be one world class team in Manchester again next year.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    Nasri would not, and never would have, solved United's problems.

    Sneijder was the one that got away, although I suspect it won't be too late to go in again. But if United can stump up the cash, he's there's. Have they got the money, though, really? Wages is always the stumbling block where such a big player is concerned, and if Sneijder is demanding upwards of £175,000 per week, Fergie may not think he is worth it. Especially given his injury problems.

    Some scouting in South America and continental Europe needs to be done for United.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's disgraceful, but sadly predictable, that there's plenty people here who can't wish Fletcher good health without chipping in with statements about how he's so over-rated. There's a right time to chip in with your negative opinions about him as a footballer - when he's clearly suffering from illness is certainly not the right time to do so.

    I hope he makes a full recovery. He seems like a decent honest pro and a decent bloke.

  • Comment number 41.

    No, Bastian Schweinstagger was the one that got away two seasons ago. Just think, there'd be no need for Gibson, Giggs or Rooney in midfield, and Anderson and Park could get forward as often as they liked.

  • Comment number 42.

    Fletcher is underrated, unquestionably.

  • Comment number 43.

    he is no zidane, but brilliant at what he does.

  • Comment number 44.

    As another with UC, I have gained massive respect for Fletcher. I find it incredible someone can perform under such stress with this condition. At times, it totally knocks it out of you. But, it's manageable, Sir Steve Redgrave and JFK being two who were pretty successful despite it. He'll be back before too long, just hope his remission lasts years not months.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    38. At 20:07 13th Dec 2011, dogeared wrote:
    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    Check the username. That wasn't me that made that comment.

  • Comment number 47.

    Get well soon, Darren - a real gent.

    I met Darren once in Edinburgh Airport. He was with his girlfriend and being a typical starstruck United fan approached him for a chat and to wish him luck. He was really polite, down to earth and took a few moments to speak to me unlike a majority of up themselves Premier League players. A quality bloke!

  • Comment number 48.

    Get well soon Fletch..You came on leaps and bounds over the years and became one of united's most consistent performers. My favourite Fletcher performances were in the 4-0 Cup win over Arsenal where you played like a man possessed and our win away in Milan in 2010. I met you once when i served you in the restaurant I worked at in Leeds..You were an absolute gent, polite and friendly as opposed to lots of other pro footballers ive met who dont give people the time of day.

  • Comment number 49.

    wow, jus said the same thing as eddie_rocket 1 min before me..Obv Fletch was the same guy to lotsa ppl

  • Comment number 50.

    It just goes from bad to worse for Man United. They have been unconvincing for most of the season and now they are without an extremely influential player. This will definitely hurt them because they have loads of injuries and they lack any huge quality in midfield. Fletcher at least was an option, even if only as a last resort because of the injury/fitness issues.

    P.S. I am trying to recreate the old 606 at my blog: http://bit.ly/tw6Bdj

  • Comment number 51.

    I hope for a speedy recovery for Darren, it's also good to see other Non-Man Utd fans wish him the best and give him the props he deserves.

    Whilst it is a terrible condition to suffer from, I'm sure he'd admit that he's in a very fortunate position in terms of his financial stability and the support from United themselves.

    If he isn't able to continue, he will still boast a career and a trophy haul that most players would love.

  • Comment number 52.

    A really really good midfielder, and thoroughly underrated by most people who haven't seen him play, as is usually the way unfortunately.

    First choice when fit says everything you need to know about the lad

    Get well soon Darren.

  • Comment number 53.

    Good luck Darren - you deserve it - A true professional and an almost Roy Keane like dedication to his club.

  • Comment number 54.

    A number of things, firstly someone suggests they have suffered from uc before and recovered I know for a fact as a sufferer their is no cure. Secondly neither ya ya toure or Steven gerrard are box to box midfielders. And thirdly I don't hope Darren get well soon I hope he can contain it and get back training/playing for long periods without a reoccurrence.....

  • Comment number 55.

    Feel for the guy, never been a problem on or off the pitch & has worked hard to get himself to the top level in this country. Hopefully he can recover or if not find fulfilment in other areas of life.

    I wouldn't call him a box-2-box midfielder though, to be honest there aren't many. Surely his goalscoring record would be better than it is if was.

    Another issue, any football fan could see that even if Fletcher had played alongside those 11 Utd players they still wouldn't have gotten near Barca in 09 or 11. There is no formula yet to consistently stopping them & I would argue Darren Fletcher isn't the answer either.

  • Comment number 56.

    Best wishes Darren, get well soon.

  • Comment number 57.

    I do have to agree with Jesus the Teddy Bear, (how did you get that username ratified?) he has been the subject of ridicule by a certain section of Utd fans but purely because of an illness, he is now a revered member of the squad by some of the same people.
    However, wish him all the best in getting back to health.
    Scotland will miss him more than Utd.

  • Comment number 58.

    True story about the man. The day after the Spain vs Scotland game I had the pleasure of standing next to him in the queue for an EasyJet flight back to Manchester. Someone asked him why he was on EasyJet and not the Scotland charter home. His response was that the charter left at 3am after the game and all the players on it got the Wednesday off from their clubs. He said training at Man Utd was too important to him so he booked his own hotel for the Tuesday and the first direct flight to Manchester so he didn't miss training on the Wednesday afternoon. This guy is a true professional and a great guy to boot. Get well soon!

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    "40. At 20:29 13th Dec 2011, JMcK wrote:
    It's disgraceful, but sadly predictable, that there's plenty people here who can't wish Fletcher good health without chipping in with statements about how he's so over-rated."

    Although it is equally predictable that since the news of his illness broke, he has now (according to some posters) become Messi, Cruyff and Pele rolled into 1. He is a very good premier league pro, and will be a big loss to United and Scotland, but nothing more. More importantly, hope the guy gets well soon.

  • Comment number 61.

    Well as I said in an earlier blog today Paul Pogba needs a chance!!!

    This may give him that chance to cement his place in United's team!!!...

    All be it in very uncomfortable circumstances for Man Utd...

    Bad, bad news Fletcher has been brilliant, a young man who was heavily criticized in his younger days by fans and ex captains (Roy Keane) alike. Proved them all wrong now mind. Big loss and I wish him a speedy recovery so he can get back on that pitch and influence big games as he has for the last 3/4 seasons!!

  • Comment number 62.

    @36 But Tiote isn't proven at the top level i.e. champions league. Yes he's done well with Newcastle, but look at Andy Carroll now. I would rather someone who's got the experience and the defensive discipline to know when to stay back when the pressures on us than someone who maybe doesn't react well to pressure if you get what I mean?

  • Comment number 63.

    @62 That's a fair criticism of Tiote, I wasn't endorsing him as a player myself but his name is linked with UTD on the gossip column quite frequently. Who else would you recommend to bolster UTD's midfield? I reckon Diarra, De Rossi and M'Vila would be at the top of my list if I was Fergie.

  • Comment number 64.

    Well after watching the weekend Classico why not make a cheeky shout for Khedira??..

    Mourinho obviously does not trust him when it comes to the crunch and I am sure with his passing ability and his ability to break up play he would be a brilliant player for United....

    I still stick with giving Pogba a chance mind!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    Phil McNulty says Darren Fletcher right to put health ahead of football...oh thank God he told the doctors, otherwise they would have no idea.

  • Comment number 66.

    I've read a newspaper article that treatment for this disease can contravene football drug testing... like steroids. So Darren Fletcher has gone through this illness without the use of steriods?! Let's get this straight, he will not be using anabolic steriods... Fletcher would be using sterioids to stop his inflamation. I too have IBD.. although the crohn's kind... but I was misdiagnosed with ulcerative colitis because the diseases are so similar. With the initial use of steriods, Fletcher can feel normal again, along with other medical treatments like Gastro-resistant tablets and steriod based enema's. Football needs to change some of their drugs rules becuase inflamation reduced based steriods like prednisolne are not performance enhancing. Once he's slowly taken off steriods, he would continue to be on gastro-resistant tablets for life to keep remission and near close to normal.

  • Comment number 67.

    Phil,

    Would love to see some stats to show United's Win-loss ratio with and without Fletcher. Until that is seen we cannot really discuss how under or over-rated the man is.

    Personally, I think someone like Fletch is essential to a title winning squad. But maybe the stats would say otherwise. Hope he gets well soon. We (Scotland) need him more than United

  • Comment number 68.

    60.
    At 22:10 13th Dec 2011, Dr_John_B wrote:

    Although it is equally predictable that since the news of his illness broke, he has now (according to some posters) become Messi, Cruyff and Pele rolled into 1. He is a very good premier league pro, and will be a big loss to United and Scotland, but nothing more. More importantly, hope the guy gets well soon.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    What are you talking about? I don't think anyone- even his biggest admirers- has ever compared Darren Fletcher as a footballer to Lionel Messi or any player like that!

    Also those cynical enough to have a pop at him as a player at this moment in time are out of order as well.

    I don't know why people struggle to grasp that it takes all sorts to make up a successful TEAM. Even Barcelona rely on the likes of Busquets and Puyol, who are important players for them in their way as Messi and Xavi are. These types of loyal, hard-working, prosaic players balance the side so that the flair players and the creative players can do their thing. Makelele was like that too. That's why Fletcher is important, for those particular qualities.

  • Comment number 69.

    As a City fan I would say that Fletcher is an underrated player who oftens plays a significant part in Uniteds victories in the really big matches. If he had been bought for £15m or so he would perhaps get the credit he deserves.

    A very good player who will hopefully return to full fitness soon.

  • Comment number 70.

    I would go with Tiote as a good solid replacement for the midfield, he might actually bring some bite back to United's game. I notice one person saying he was untested at CL level, well if we buy him in Jan then he has a chance to take the first steps by playing in the Europa League.

    What United simply CANNOT now do is fail to sign someone as cover at least in the midfield. Maybe Fletcher's illness will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for United as it forces them to act in the market at some point in January.

    Get better soon, Fletch, i know it's incurable as of now but let's hope we see you back playing again soon!

  • Comment number 71.

    @60. Dr_John_B
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Behave yourself, when was he ever likened to Messi, Cruyff and Pele for gods sake!
    All people have said (and quite rightly) is that he is an honest, hard working committed player, and has been an essential part of United & Scotland`s midfield for 3-4 seasons now.
    He will be missed and let`s face it United haven`t really got many options in CM.
    I wish him all the best in his extended leave, and hope he will be back in the red of Manchester United (and the blue of Scotland) before too long.

  • Comment number 72.

    @66: I imagine that Ivan Klasnic would have similar problems with steriods for his kidney transplant. Until a few years ago, steroids were used to suppress the immune systems of kidney transplant patients. There are other tablets available now, thankfully.

    As for Fletcher's injury, I really rate the guy. I'm not going to claim that he is the best midfielder in the prem, or in the world, because he isn't. But he is damn good at what he does, he has a great work ethic and gives it his all every time he pulls on the shirt for United or Scotland. You can't really ask any more from a professional footballer. Also, I can't recall too many stories of Fletcher drunkenly falling out of nightclubs or getting done for speeding or letting fireworks off in his house, so he does appear to set a good example off the field of play as well. Get well soon Fletcher.

  • Comment number 73.

    P.S. What's happened to Darron Gibson? He was being given a fair few games not so long ago and now he seems to have disapeared. Is he injured or has Fergie got rid of him or sent him out on loan?

  • Comment number 74.

    @73

    D. None of the above. Gibson was on the bench last game v Wolves.

    Get well soon Fletch

  • Comment number 75.

    @72
    Its my understanding (as a scotland fan) that the boy is proper teetotal, i wouldn't like to suggest that there is a link between that and his impressively athletic and professional performances on the pitch mind, cos that would be unfair to other legends of the dark blue.
    Can't wait to see him back captaining the boys all the way to brazil though!

  • Comment number 76.

    quick recovery fletch.i hope sir alex buys atleast javi martinez,modric,sneidjer and a striker .Rooneyneeds a bit of help epecially when he misses from 5 yards out.

  • Comment number 77.

    Firstly, good luck to Fletch, as good and honest a pro as you'll meet.

    That said, Fergie has needed to invest in the midfield for some time now. The deterioration as Scholes came to the end and it became clear that Hargreaves was not coming back was patently obvious especially last season, and that was with Carrick and Fletcher available. Therefore you have to conclude that they don't offer the answer. If Cleverly returns and reaches his highest standards and Jones continues his commanding midfield form, and both stay fit, then Utd might just get away with it but I still think Fergie needs to buy in midfield now, just as he did in the summer but seemed to forget the crying need.

    As for No 76 and Paul Ince: "Utd need a striker to help out Rooney."
    You can start to see why Ince can't hold down a management role! Utd need someone who can help Rooney and can't expect him to deliver 20+ goals every season insists Ince.

    What a clown. He might remind himself that last season it was Hernandez and Berbatov who delivered the goals when Rooney was struggling. Welbeck has steeped-up this year and Hernandez has again shown his predatory instincts, once he's fit and available. That leaves Berba, Owen and Macheda filling the 4-6 striker positions while both Young and Nani have been used to play-off a main striker.

    No Mr Ince...Utd do NOT need a striker but a CM would be most welcome.

  • Comment number 78.

    The Paleo/caveman diet will cure him

  • Comment number 79.

    Here's to hoping for a quick recovey Fletch.

    If he works as hard off the pitch to fight this disease as he does on the pitch i'm sure he will be back in no time. But his health is the biggest issue and I wish him all the best.

  • Comment number 80.

    Remarkable that he has played on for so long and explains why he hasn't been at his best.

    Personally, though not a United fan, he would have been the first name on my teamsheet for any of their big games since pretty much the start of the 08/09 season. I think they've really missed him over this last year since he's been out.

    Maybe though, in a season when they are unlikely to win anything (except maybe the Europa League) it'll be a good chance for them to play Pogoba and Morrison to see if either of these are as good as the fans keep claiming. Especially with Cleverly coming back (who was excellent when playing for Wigan and has been really good for United this term) they could find themselves starting next year with a young squad, brought up in the right way with some experience of big games.

    Still if they want to push for the league this year they will definitely need a new central midfielder - someone like Owen Hargreaves when he was fit.

    Main concern though is Fletcher manages to get better and people respect his privacy.

  • Comment number 81.

    I really, wholeheartedly wish Darren Fletcher a full recovery. I also wish that he had prioritized earlier on and put his health ahead of football. He is such a very modest person, and the unsung hero on the pitch. But he is aslo lucky to have full treatment and attention on the the hope that he will recover one day and come back to football. My heart and soul are with those who are in a similar situation yet struggle to get due attention and sympathetic well-wishers let alone be treated. Get well soon Darren Fletcher and all those who suffer UC!!

  • Comment number 82.

    Perhaps SAF could tempt Scholsey out of retirement until we get players back fit?! Apparently he still joins in in training and is still quality. And over the important Xmas period, you won't many more experienced players than him!

  • Comment number 83.

    Many thanks on behalf of all Utd fans for the generous words and wishes from all the "enemy" fans on this blog. Much appreciated lads!
    You expect injury to claim the career of our players,but it always seems particularly cruel when illness takes it's toll.
    We hope a lasting cure can be found for the lad,but if that means that football has to be dropped,then so be it.
    To the one or two who could'nt resist having a pop....sad..so sad!

  • Comment number 84.

    United need only 1 midfielder

    Sergio Busquest!!

    YES!! Someone who can sit back and defend! Barcelona sold Yaya to man city im sure they will sell Busquests to United, As they have like great youth coming out of their academy if united pay 25m he will be a bargin!

  • Comment number 85.

    Man Utd can quite easily spend their way around the problem, in club terms although he's a valuable member of their squad they do have the means to find an answer.
    If you can move on from losing players like Cantona, Scholes and Ronaldo et al, then you can move forward from this.
    It's a big loss for Scotland though. Let's just hope that the rest of the squad can follow his determined example (I'm thinking of his namesake here!).

    Here's hoping he can get the condition under control relatively quickly.

  • Comment number 86.

    Such a shame for a seemingly dedicated pro at the top of his game. A big blow for Man U but secondary to Fletchers health. All the best.

  • Comment number 87.

    My sympathies to Darren - my fiancé sufferers the same condition and some days we can not leave the house. It is a very serious illness, with hardly any media exposure and the doctors know very little about it....no wonder it was a mystery illness for so long.

    In terms of UTD they do need to buy....Fergie himself said he expectd the younger players to die down at Christmas, as was what normally happens, which leaves us in a very difficult place.

  • Comment number 88.

    Get well soon Fletcher. You've made the right call. Health first

  • Comment number 89.

    I wish him all the best.

    I don't think he is a great player, but he is a very good one. However, what impresses me is that he didn't stagnate like the majority of young players do; so many of them break into the Premier League and then just think they've made it. He did develop and stay at the top of his game. And all while dealing with a health problem at the same time.

  • Comment number 90.

    Get well soon Darren.

    Unfortunately, I fear for our (Scotland's) midfield without him. It might even show the idiots who go about him being terrible in a Scotland shirt what they are actually missing. He does a power of work for Scotland, and has had to virtually carry the whole midfield on his own for periods of his career, yet he misplaces a couple of passes and he's the worst footballer in the world?!?

    Same goes for Utd. He's not spectacular, he's just quietly efficient. And it says a lot that Utd have lost their way this season without him around to steady things. It was mentioned earlier about Utd perhaps not having got such a doing in Rome if he'd been around - that it up for debate (although given the sort of football Barca play he wouldnt have made that much difference), but I think it 's the wrong debate. The real question is could you imagine Utd struggling against Basle with him in the team?

  • Comment number 91.

    Nice article on Darren and his commitment to club and country. He has been a tremendous footballer and human being. Health is wealth. Wishing Fletcher a smooth recovery.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 92.

    Not a particularly talented football player, but the type of player every squad needs and he epitomises the fighting spirit and never say die attitude of a club that challenges for titles.

    I wish him a speedy recovery.

  • Comment number 93.

    A pertinent blog Phil.

    Frankly, the illness itself does sound quite horrible as much for the unpredictability of it as the unpleasant symptoms. I imagine it's difficult to live that normally even if you're say on your backside all day like me, let alone having to run around at peak physical fitness for a living! Let's hope for him and others that medical science can find an answer.

    As for Man U, I think they have a couple of decent players there, some may say work horses, and a couple of prospects. But, they play with wingers mainly anyway (Nani and Young) so it's perhaps a question of getting the centre shored up until a longer term solution is found.

    But, who is that solution?

  • Comment number 94.

    Am I missing something? The article does not say what his problem is? Can someone explain please? Ta

  • Comment number 95.

    I think now is the time Ferguson needs to seriously consider buying a new centre midfielder. Scholes and Fletcher have been United's best over the last 5 years (except maybe the year Carrick first came and formed a great CM partnership with Scholes). With both of them gone this year we have weakened where other teams have seriously improved.

    However people need to remember how successful United have been over these last 5 years in particular, and a lot of it was down to Ferguson's management of the squad. We continued to succeed despite 'weakening' when Ronaldo and Tevez left. Had it not been for Barcelona's ridiculous strength we could have won 1-3 more CL titles.

    Trust in Fergie.

    p.s. bring Scholes out of retirement for a year?

  • Comment number 96.

    month and will now take an extended break from the game in an attempt to recover from ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition.

  • Comment number 97.

    #94 royalunitedforever21

    Paragraph 3, ulcerative colitis. Don't click on it if you're eating your breakfast!

  • Comment number 98.

    #95 mockingbird

    Aside from a purple patch at the beginning of last season, did Scholes really contribute that much in 2010/11?

    Also, on reflection, Man U have done ok recently it's just a judgement call as to whether they have enough to maintain on improve on their league position in February to May. I'm sure that if push came to shove, the Europa league would go out of the window which takes the pressure off of resources.

  • Comment number 99.

    .At 10:40 14th Dec 2011, MrBlueBurns wrote:
    #94 royalunitedforever21

    Paragraph 3, ulcerative colitis. Don't click on it if you're eating your breakfast!

    Complain --
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Thanks for sight of this. Ah ha.. Which explains why he is so slim...lol...

  • Comment number 100.

    #99 royalunitedforever21

    If they find a cure, they should inject a dose of it into some fatties rather than all this gastric band on the NHS business, then give them the cure when they're down to a decent BMI.

 

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