by Teo Teng Kiat
After months of struggling with a mystery virus, the club finally issued an official statement yesterday, declaring that Darren Fletcher would be “taking an extended break from football for health reasons”, due to a chronic inflammatory bowel condition known as ulcerative colitis, which had been plaguing him for some time (full statement on ManUtd.com here).
It has been pretty clear to all supporters during the past few matches that whenever Fletcher has played, he hasn’t looked fully fit, and so this piece of news doesn’t come as a big surprise. It is, however, testament to his determination and sheer will that he has been carrying on to play through the pain barrier, and it is the best option for all parties concerned that he takes this break to fully recuperate from his illness, before coming back to football again. Ultimately, health takes precedence.
As this effectively rules the Scotland captain out for the rest of the season, it comes as a big blow to United, as it leaves the team short on options in central midfield, since Cleverley and Anderson are both out for the foreseeable future. Gibson and Carrick are probably the only true centre midfielders in the squad who are still fit, and the club could very certainly do with the Darren Fletcher of the 2008-’09 season, where the combative midfielder put in scintillating performances week-in and week-out, to the extent that his absence was singled out as a major reason why we lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final that year, after he was ridiculously dismissed against Arsenal in the semi-finals.
Jones has done superbly in the recent matches filling in the middle of the park, but surely he is not a permanent solution, although his partnership with Carrick does liberate the latter to roam forward more in an advanced playmaker role. Giggs, Park and even Rooney can also play there, but again, they are just stop-gap solutions.
Of course, there have been many supporters clamouring for Pogba and Morrison to step in and fill the void, but while both are fantastic talents, I feel that they are still some way short of being able to cope with first-team football. The step up from Reserve football to the Premier League is a steep one, and it is certainly too much to throw them into the fray straight away; but I do think that this presents an opportunity for Sir Alex to start exposing them to more first-team action. The occasional 15-20 minutes through substitute appearances will greatly benefit their development, and I hope to see them included more frequently in the matchday squads over the next few months.
With injuries to other players like Vidic, who has also been ruled out for the rest of the season, as well as Hernandez and Berbatov, there have been calls for the cash to be splashed in the January transfer window. Inevitably, we have been linked with a dozen players, with familiar names like Sneijder cropping up, as well as talk of a loan deal for Juventus’ Milos Krasic surfacing, amongst others.
While the manager has ruled out making any moves during the window, and past history also indicates that the club seldom buys in January, such rumors will continue to persist until the end of the transfer period. I reckon that the club has what it takes to cope with the injury crisis, with Evans, Smalling and Jones all ready to step in to partner Ferdinand, while our current options in midfield should be able to tide us through the next few games against QPR, Wigan (both away), Fulham and Blackburn (both home).
Meanwhile, we at United for United wish Darren Fletcher a speedy recovery from his illness, and hope to see him in a United shirt again soon.
Join in the discussion about Fletcher at the U4U forum here.
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