THE Edinburgh boxer Alex Arthur yesterday described Darren Fletcher as a “fighter”, and he should know what he is talking about on that count. Fletcher’s return to the Manchester United first team is a feelgood story that acts as a tremendous antidote to the several problems that are afflicting football at present.
Forget for a moment the on-going crowd vandalism issues and match- fixing allegations, and celebrate the spirit of someone who many feared might never play for the Manchester United first team again. Yesterday saw another significant step forward when Fletcher was named as a substitute by David Moyes for the league match against Aston Villa.
After 70 minutes came the news all of Scotland – and specifically international manager Gordon Strachan – wanted to hear when Fletcher replaced Ryan Giggs to a rousing reception from not just the away supporters in the ground, but the entire crowd. It is Fletcher’s first appearance since Boxing Day and is a persuasive sign that he is winning his battle to control the chronic bowel condition ulcerative colitis. The Scotland skipper’s devotion to the international team’s cause has never been in doubt. However, his commitment was deeply illustrated by his determination to join up with the squad for a game against Liechtenstein in October 2011 having been struck down by what was explained as tonsillitis at the time – his bowel condition was only first revealed by Manchester United two months later. Having been ruled out in the week of the game, he surprised everyone by making a journey to Liechtenstein to join up with the squad on the eve of the game, starting the following day and then playing all but the last five minutes against Spain, the world champions, just four days later.
In light of what we now know, it was a super-human effort. In the season of goodwill, Fletcher’s return is major reason for cheer. We should not have doubted it.