Darren Fletcher left Manchester United after 12 years at the club, on January transfer deadline day to West Brom. The Scottish international moved to the Hawthorns on a free transfer after falling out of favour at Old Trafford.
After missing the majority of the past three seasons with ulcerative colitis, he was starting to get back into the side with 11 Premier League appearances this season. But with the £100’s of millions spent in the summer on many midfield players, Fletcher wasn’t going to be able to establish himself as a first team player again and subsequently decided to leave.
The 31-year-old was never a star at Old Trafford but was a fans favourite due to his loyalty and willingness to put his body on the line. Never a regular – he made 25 or more appearances in a single league season on just four occasions, but Fletcher still played in 223 Premier League matches for the Red Devils. Overall he made 342 appearances and was often the unsung hero at the club.
As far as trophies go, he has an extremely illustrious CV. During his time at United he picked up five Premier League winners medals, one League Cup, one FA Cup, one Champions League and a Club World Cup. Many top players in the world would fail to have a trophy cabinet like it. Although many say Fletcher was lucky to be part of such a magnificent squad, you don’t make 342 appearances over 12 years by being a bit-part-player. He managed to score important goals and was always a key component in the middle of the pitch.
Speaking in 2009 after Fletcher was suspending for the Champions League Final, Jose Mourinho spoke of the Scot’s importance to the team: “Fletcher is more important than people think.
“His work in midfield, especially in the midfield wars, in crucial matches is very important. United will miss his pace and aggression in defensive actions: he ‘eats’ opponents in defensive transition.”
Such words by an opposing manager highlights how underrated Darren Fletcher was at his time at Old Trafford. From 2008 to 2011, he became a key member of the team in the heart of midfield and, as Mourinho stated. was crucial in the big matches as he proved on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, illness meant he played a very limited part from 2011 onwards, which proved to be a great shame for a player who was starting to become one of the first names on the team sheet.
As it transpired, Fletcher’s role as a key component to United’s midfield was short lived and now he begins a new chapter at West Brom. A move to the Midlands gives Fletcher the chance to thrive and became an important part in the club’s attempt to survive in the Premier League.
It would be difficult to call Darren Fletcher a United legend due to the fact that, other than a three year period, he wasn’t really a first team regular at the club. Despite this, Fletcher was an extremely important part of the team and was one of the most underrated performers in recent years.
United will miss his passion and commitment for the club which in today’s game is becoming few and far between.