Will Darren Fletcher's Manchester United Return Alter January Shopping List?

Stuart Howard-CofieldFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2013

LEIGH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02:   Darren Fletcher of Manchester United U21 during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Blackburn U21 and Manchester United U21 at  Leigh Stadium on December 02, 2013 in Leigh, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Darren Fletcher’s recent return to Manchester United first-team action was a welcomed piece of good news in a difficult first half of the Premier League season for David Moyes. But will it have an effect on the United manager’s dealings in the January transfer window?

The match against Aston Villa last week was Fletcher’s first appearance in the United side since Boxing Day 2012. The Scot has had a nightmare couple of years due to him battling Ulcerative Colitis and he received a hero’s welcome from the travelling reds.

Rafael da Silva was in no doubt as to how he felt about his return, according to manutd.com:


"It was a special moment for everyone and for Fletch, I was really waiting for him to come back," the Brazilian defender told MUTV. "He's helped me a lot since I arrived at the club, he's one of my biggest friends here. He's such a good player, and a good guy - I'm glad he's back."


Reports in some quarters, like the Daily Post suggest that Fletcher has been ready to return to action for a few weeks now. The same article even enigmatically refer to his superior training compared to others at the club, “Unlike several of his team mates, Fletcher has been training superbly and felt like he’s been worth a call-up for a month.”

The 20 minutes or so against Villa and then again versus Stoke City in the Capital One Cup will stand the midfielder in good stead and give hope that he may be able to feature over the busy festive period.

The United midfield is high on quantity, but there is a widely perceived lack of quality and barely a day goes by without the club being linked with various midfielders.

It remains to be seen if the Old Trafford purse-strings will be loosened during the January transfer window, though—and it is far too early to make any predictions about the future for Darren Fletcher.

However, if Fletcher can build up from these cameo appearances to become a regular fixture in the side again, it will at least help Moyes concentrate on exactly which type of player he might require to bolster the squad.

Marouane Fellaini was the one big signing in the summer. He was immediately under much pressure to single-handedly plug the gaps in the midfield. According to reports in the Guardian, the Belgian is now due to be out for six weeks or so. He presently has a back injury that has sidelined him, so the decision was taken for him to undergo a wrist operation that has been put off for some time.

It is unfortunate that Michael Carrick’s current absence through injury has thrown the midfield into an even brighter spotlight. What remains clear, though, is that relying on a central defender—Phil Jones—to cover is not a viable long-term plan. Nor is giving a regular first-team spot to Ryan Giggs.

Taking into account the return of Darren Fletcher, a slowly improving Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick soon to come back from injury, there is at least a good base for Moyes to start with. It does still leave the need for a player with both the drive and guile to unlock the better defences at home and in Europe.

As discussed on Bleacher Report recently, a much younger Anderson could have been that player. With minimal starts this season and an injury-plagued career at United, it would appear that Moyes is not quite sure about the Brazilian.

So too, Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese has been unable to make a consistent impression on the squad due to various injuries and illnesses—and there is indecision as to where he can fit in the team.

Wesley Sneijder
Wesley SneijderClaudio Villa/Getty Images

As per Bleacher Report and various outlets, it appears that Wesley Sneijder would like a move to Manchester United. A couple of years ago, this would have been a dream signing—perhaps less so now, but the move does still look to have some attraction to both.

Despite being “cup-tied” in Europe and him enjoying a less than inspiring time at Galatasaray so far, it must be remembered that we are in a World Cup year. Sneijder fits the credentials that David Moyes is looking for and he might see a move to United as a big chance to impress the Dutch national side Head Coach Louis van Gaal.

Following a less-than-illustrious start to his career at United, Darren Fletcher managed to carve a niche out for himself as a busy midfield stopper—perhaps the type of player that, given his physical presence, Moyes hoped Marouane Fellaini could be. 

Fletcher’s journey proves that there is still time for improvement for the likes of Fellaini. It may also have helped David Moyes to whittle down his shortlist of targets.