Darren Fletcher's Return a Welcome Boost for David Moyes and Manchester United

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentJanuary 11, 2014

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

OLD TRAFFORD, MANCHESTER—There was a lot for David Moyes to be pleased about after watching Manchester United beat Swansea City at Old Trafford.

It was the first win of 2014—ending a run of three consecutive defeats. It was just the fourth time that United had managed to score two or more goals at home in the Premier League this season. The clean sheet, their first at Old Trafford in the league since the win over Arsenal in November, was welcome, too.

But it was perhaps the performance of Darren Fletcher that brought the United manager most pleasure. 

In a month when all the questions will be about whether Moyes can reinforce his threadbare midfield, Fletcher put in a display to show his manager that the rebuild might not have to be that extensive.

United still need another midfielder—preferably in January, but more likely in the summer—but Fletcher's comeback makes the squad look a lot different. 

Moyes, and United fans, have tried to keep their expectations in check. Fletcher's battle against a stomach condition has been long and arduous, with a number of false dawns. A comeback, then another break. Another comeback and another break.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Darren Fletcher of Manchester United (24) replaces Ryan Giggs as a substitute as David Moyes manager of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester United at Vi
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

But this week will have filled the United manager with confidence. 

After returning to the team at Aston Villa on December 15, Fletcher has been in each matchday squad. In six days he played 90 minutes against Swansea in the FA Cup, the last 15 minutes of the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Sunderland and another 90 minutes against Swansea in the Premier League on Saturday.

That's a lot of football for a player who hasn't had a real run in the team since March 2011.

It's still early days for Fletcher, and he's yet to prove he can play three full games in a week. But just a month into his comeback and he's already showing United what they've been missing.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Darren Fletcher of Manchester United is tackled by Nathan Baker of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester United at Villa Park on December 15, 2013 in Birmingham, England
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

And not just on the pitch, where he's efficient and uncomplicated, but off it, too.

It was Fletcher who fronted up to the media after defeats to Swansea and Sunderland. Both times he spoke with authority and intelligence in tough circumstances.

Fletcher's return isn't the answer to Moyes' problems in midfield. Anderson, who wasn't even on the bench against Swansea, looks to be on his way out, while Tom Cleverley is still learning, effectively only halfway through his second season as a regular.

But Fletcher's comeback is a welcome boost for a squad that was starting to look tired and beleaguered. What's perhaps more exciting for Moyes and the United fans is the promise of more to come.