Darren Fletcher has at last agreed to give priority to his health over football. But his attempts to overcome the illness without giving up on his football is a measure of the ethics that has won so much admiration among his teammates and fans.
The 27-year-old midfield man will now look at a prolonged indefinite period of rest as nothing else but a curse, and this could not have come at a worse time for Manchester United as they face what can now be termed a 'midfield injury crisis', with games coming thick and fast during the Christmas period.
There was a time when Manchester United fans did not appreciate his role in the team, which can probably be attributed to his lack of flair and workhorse-like performances. But with Sir Alex Ferguson's implicit trust in him to perform in the big games for United, they have grown to like and trust him.
One of the most under-rated players in the English Premier League, it is hardly surprising that United's decline in form and performance come at a time when Fletcher was struggling to regain full fitness. Perhaps if he had been bought for 25m or so he would get the credit he deserves.
In all probability, his name will not go down in the 'Manchester United legend' list, but there are not many who will go down as a legend at United, so it's no disgrace for Fletcher not to be described as one. He was generally known as a big game player at United and was a vital part of Ferguson's game plan in many games. One that immediately springs to mind is the 1-0 victory over Chelsea in the 2005-2006 season when Fletcher scored the winning goal in a Man of the Match performance.
He had a certain style and a certain job in the team and he usually performed both to great effect.
But his own hardworking personality and pride in playing for United and Scotland may have worked against him in his battle to cope with debilitating illness.
Footballers, on the whole, are a determined lot. They are lucky to be playing a game they love and get paid for it. Injuries and lay offs from the game are obviously irritating, and hence in their eagerness to return to the game they may tend to half-listen to what their doctors try to tell them, tending to think that their doctors err on the side of caution. For example, when the doctor predicts a six week lay off, one immediately accepts that it will be three weeks.
It is the way we are. Our love for the beautiful game eclipses everything else. And it can be safely assumed that it is the same with professional footballers as well.
But it looks like Fletcher has gone past that phase and is now facing what looks like an extremely tough and painful journey. Basic descriptions of his condition seem to indicate a long term disease with no cure, and one can only hope he overcomes it with the same grit and determination he shows on the field.
On the topic of replacements, Manchester United have some serious concerns in midfield. The so called 'engine room' is vital to all teams (think of Keane and Scholes for nearly a decade). That's where this team is suffering. If Ferguson doesn't buy in January, the likes of Cleverly, Jones and Carrick will have to emerge in the 2nd half of the season as true world beaters and form a new, all English, indomitable midfield combination.
I'm not holding my breath but what's life without dreams?