As the song goes, he would run 500 miles, and he would run 500 more, Darren Fletcher! And so on.
Yesterday the club and player announced that he would play no part in the current first team set up as his illness has grown in severity to the point where he can no longer play football. While Fletcher had certainly lost his preeminence in the first team, he was still a valuable player to have on hand that could always do a job.
The loss of Fletcher in the United first team hurts more due to what he has done in the shirt that what he was doing as our number 24. Fletch represents much of what United fans take pride in about their club. He represents the never say die attitude reminiscent of Sir Alex Ferguson’s vintage teams and played crucial roles in a few of those said sides.
The Scotsman’s best season for United came in the 2008/2009 campaign as he filled the void created by Owen Hargreaves’ unending battle with injuries. Fletcher’s form that season was such that many felt as though he would have made a difference on that forgettable night in Rome during which Barcelona’s star eclipsed ours while the entire world looked on. And during the following season Fletcher’s star continued to rise as he was included in the PFA team of the season.
Fletcher signed with Manchester United at the age of 11 and rose through the club’s academy to the first team. Initially pundits believed that Fletch would become the eventual replacement for David Beckham on United’s right flank, but as he moved up the ranks it turned out that he was best suited for a central role. Darren made his first appearance in the first team on March 12, 2003 in the Champions League against Basel.
While he may not have been everything to every United fan, he was certainly everything to the club and to the manager. Fletcher played in almost every position on the football pitch and never embarrassed himself in the slightest bit. Whether it was a right back, centre half, winger or in the middle of the park Fletcher never once dogged it. His goal against City this season at Old Trafford is a perfect example of his incredible work rate.
For Darren Fletcher, playing for Manchester United mattered as much to him as it would to any of us fans were we offered the opportunity to play for the club of our dreams. That, more than anything, is what always brings out nothing but joy when I reflect upon his tenure with the club. Aside from his family, nothing was more important to Fletcher than United. His hard work in training as well as during the matches set an example that any young footballer ought to look to as his way into the game.
Fletcher not only realised his dream by playing beside Giggsy, Scholes and Keane, but by winning the Premier League four times, the Champions League once, the FA Cup, two league cups and a Club World Cup. The man was simply a legend in our shirt and deserves more praise than he gets.
Thank you Darren Fletcher for some amazing memories which I, nor many United fans, will forget for years to come.
This piece is courtesy of The Busby Boys’ Charles (Who you can also hear on our podcast)