Chudi Onwuazor hails the emergence of Darren Fletcher and what a key player he has become for Manchester United.
After their August 29th defeat at Old Trafford, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger singled out ‘that United player' and his approach to the game going as far as to say he played ‘anti-football'. Despite not mentioning him by name, it was generally accepted that he was referring to Darren Fletcher.
Meant as a criticism, Fletcher himself took the comments as a compliment, as they were almost an affirmation of how important Fletcher has become to the United team.
After a relatively poor first half by their standards and a goal down to an Andrei Arshavin stunner, United came out fighting in the second half and dragged themselves back into the game off the back of another all action Fletcher performance, with the Scot drawing the free kick that Abou Diaby put into his own net to make it 2-1.
Darren Fletcher has steadily risen into a position where most United fans expect him to be the first midfielder on the team sheet, yet it hasn't always been the case. Now an integral part of the central midfield, Fletcher could previously be found out on the right wing where he was less effective, leading Roy Keane to famously single him out as one of a bunch of players that he felt were not making the grade at United after a poor performance in a crushing 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough in 2005. Keane exclaimed, ‘I can't understand why people in Scotland rave about Darren Fletcher,'
This particularly dark period in his career was capped when 2 days later he was booed off the field against Lille in Paris.
Fletcher himself stated this was a character building experience and it appears to have worked as now the player who was once ridiculed by his own fans who jokingly claimed the only reason he played was because he was ‘Fergie's son' can now boast that in the previous 48 games he has started, United have lost just 1, away to Fulham, with Burnley and more importantly Barcelona triumphing in his absence. Leading many to speculate that he would have done a much better job of shackling the marauding Xavi and Iniesta than Anderson did that night in Rome.
Mention United this season and most people will immediately talk about Ryan Giggs' awesome form or if the club will be able to survive the losses of Cristiano Ronaldo and to a lesser extent Carlos Tevez. Sir Alex Ferguson already stated that a player like Ronaldo is irreplaceable thus he was looking for all of his players to stand up and help lighten the load and it appears Fletcher has answered this call to arms by his manager. This season he has notched two important goals and an assist and if he carries on putting in top level performances like the ones he has against Arsenal and Man City, he will not only make the absence of Ronaldo that much easier to bear but also be one of the clubs hot topics, but this time for the right reason.
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