Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted nothing more than to be able to welcome Darren Fletcher to Molde on Tuesday night when Scotland arrived in the town to play Norway in an international challenge match.
Sadly, his former Manchester United team-mate is still recovering from a serious bowel condition, although there is rising optimism that Fletcher is close to making a first-team comeback.
Solskjaer, who left a reserve-team coaching post at United to become manager of Molde FK in 2011, has backed Fletcher to make a full recovery and looked forward to him being able to celebrate his return to first-team action with his family, as he did when he returned from a near-three-year spell on the sidelines following a serious knee injury.
The Norwegian scored his comeback goal against Charlton in August 2006 – Fletcher also featured in the game – and remembers the joy that it gave his young son, Noah.
“For me, the proudest moment in my career was when I made my comeback from injury, scored for Manchester United and my son celebrated by clenching his fists,” said Solskjaer. “Fletch has got his own twins so I’m sure he’ll want to play to show them he’s a good player. When I met him recently he seemed very positive so I’m sure it’s going to happen.”
The careers of Solsjkaer and Fletcher often intertwined. Solskjaer played in Fletcher’s first reserve game for Manchester United, back when the Scot was regarded as the club’s most promising youngster. He was also playing in the opposition when Fletcher made his international debut against Norway, in 2003. They actually swapped shirts and Solskjaer joked that he considered wearing his on Tuesday night, when Scotland played at his home stadium. Alas, Fletcher was not part of the group who earned a gritty win. He is continuing to manage his chronic bowel condition. Following another operation in the summer, he has returned to training again at Carrington, the Manchester United training base, and played his first competitive game since 2011 when he appeared for the under-21s at the end of last month. Hopes are high that Fletcher will be able to lead Scotland again when the campaign for Euro 2016 begins next autumn.
“It’s fantastic news that Darren is on his way back,” said Solskjaer. “I was over in Manchester about a month ago and I was lucky enough to bump into Fletch and he said he was on the road to recovery.
“I just met him purely by chance outside the supermarket and it was great to see him.
“I know how hard it must be for him because I had a spell out for two-and-a-half to three years myself. There’s nothing worse than that feeling of not really knowing whether you’re going to be able to make a comeback but luckily, now, it looks like it’s going to happen and I couldn’t be happier for him.”