Darren Fletcher: Can Manchester United Midfielder Recapture His Best Form?
When fans discuss the side's midfield, potential formations and partnerships, his name is often nowhere to be found.
It is understandable. The Scottish workhorse has made just 12 Premier League appearances in the last two seasons.
The chronic bowel condition from which he has suffered has robbed the now-29-year-old of some of the peak years of his playing career.
But Fletcher is nearing a return. He should not be counted out yet.
According to a report in The Mirror last month, "he is said to be making good progress in his recovery from his enforced break and has targeted a return to pre-season training next month."
What can we expect from the midfielder next season if he does regain full fitness? What kind of a role can he expect to play in this new-fangled David Moyes team?
Here are a few thoughts on what the future holds for Darren Fletcher.
Role Under Moyes
David Moyes is a known admirer of his. He has made attempts to sign him for Everton in the past.
He is the type of player suited to Moyes' managerial style: an engine in the middle with an unbridled passion for the game.
In the celebrity era of Flash Harry's and money-hungry agents, his commitment to the cause is exemplary.
He was 11 when he first joined the Red Devils. He is Manchester United through and through.
At his peak, Fletcher was an understated force in the team's midfield. A player former boss Sir Alex Ferguson could trust to deliver in big games.
His experience will be key to a club that has just lost its figurehead.
If and when he does return, he can expect to vie for two jobs in the first team: in holding midfield or the box-to-box role.
The latter was his primary role before his health issues. But after such a long time out, it is doubtful he can still physically manage it.
With Moyes reportedly targeting Thiago Alcantara in the transfer market, as reported by Paul Clennam at Goal.com, Fletcher may no longer have the technical skill to play the vital link between Michael Carrick and the side's attack.
The position he will likely play will be in holding midfield.
Sir Alex suggested as much earlier this year on to the official club website:
He had to change his game and he hasn't been the Darren Fletcher of three or four years ago in the games this season.
Instead, he was sitting in front of the back four and he did well. That could be his role in the future. When he comes back, and I hope he does, it will be in a different role
He may need time to transition to this deep role, but it is the most viable option available right now.
What It Will Take
Obviously, the most important thing for Darren Fletcher will be getting back to full fitness as soon as possible.
How Many Games Will Darren Fletcher Play Next Season?
This does not necessarily mean simply spending hours and hours in the gym, but playing valuable minutes and regaining match sharpness is also needed.
His mobility will be limited, especially in the first few months of the season, but this is where an adapted role will become important.
He will have to truly hone the more technical part of his game, such as his distribution and awareness.
He already has the tenacity to offer ample protection for the back line.
Michael Carrick will surely be the team's first-choice player here, but a fit Fletcher will be given game time where it suits.
Moyes will be willing to exert patience in his case, as will the fans who look forward to seeing him back in action at any rate.
Old Trafford has not forgotten him, even if it sometimes seems that way.
What do you think next season holds in store for Darren Fletcher?
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