Fergie's Son: The Darren Fletcher Divide

Discussion in 'Manchester United Forum' started by B Cantona, Aug 22, 2009.

  1. Aug 22, 2009
    #1

    B Cantona Desperate

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    "I'd much rather see an 18 year old local lad have his squad place and a crack at the team." Me, Redcafe, January 2007.



    "Who cares, there are thousands of Fletcher's out there... If he stays, he'll play very little." Me, again, Redcafe, November 2007.



    Darren bloody Fletcher. Few players have caused such division amongst fellow reds in recent years. Some claim he's been a magnificent player since his introduction to the side, born to play in a United shirt, always turns up for the big games. Others think he's been a liability, picked because he's the same nationality as his gaffer, even alleging a blood heritage between the too. Jokingly perhaps, but amongst a surprisingly large portion of supporters - at a club renowned for treating their players past and present extremely well - there existed an air of cynicism regarding his selection.



    The criticism wasn't limited to supporters either. Roy Keane, the man often cited as the type of player Darren could never become, once allegedly claimed in an un-broadcast 2005 MUTV interview which hastened his exit from the club: "I can't understand why people in Scotland rave about Darren Fletcher". The remarks were later qualified ("If you listen to any of my comments over the last two or three years, if I've given any player credit over the years it would be Fletch. Fletch will tell you that himself."), but at the time his comments held a certain credibility, perhaps a little close to the bone for Ferguson's liking. A club legend, at the tail end of his career admittedly, was sent packing. Young Darren continued to receive his chances in the Manchester United first team.



    Perhaps the divide over Fletcher started right at the beginning of his United career. Picked up from Tynecastle Boys Club, signing professional terms with United in 2001, 'those in the know' considered Fletcher to be a top prospect, a shoe in for future first team action. High expectations, but his early development was hampered by reoccurring injuries, originating from a foot problem picked up playing for Scotland U16's on an artificial pitch. His debut eventually came aged 19 in the Champions League second group phase clash against FC Basle. The game had little riding on it, United having already won their four preceding contests. Fletcher started the game, notable for a rare strike from Gary Neville which earnt United a point. He made one further appearance in the campaign.



    In his breakthrough 2003/04 season, he started more games than the scintillating new £12million signing Cristiano Ronaldo. But his performances were largely considered hit and miss. Any young player needs time to develop of course, but Fletcher's scrawny physique really seemed to count against him. That his inclusions largely came on the right side of midfield, the position recently vacated by the exceptional David Beckham, didn't help matters. I remember attending Old Trafford back then, and for the first time hearing significant pockets of supporters really going after their own players, particularly Richardson and Fletcher. It was a relatively frustrating few years for United, as Arsenal went the season unbeaten, and the new Abramovich / Mourinho era bore fruit. Supporter patience with their own sometimes wore thin, and Fletcher often bore the brunt of it.



    Yet Fletcher had his staunch supporters too, including Sir Alex of course, who selected the player over a hundred times during those title-less seasons. He scored the winner against Chelsea, the first time a Ferguson side triumphed over Mourinho's, ending their 40 match unbeaten run. He racked up notable performances, particularly against Arsenal on several occasions, and was often favoured for European contests. He began to play more often as a central midfielder, perhaps due to a lack of other options than anything. Still, not everyone was convinced, including myself, as the comments at the top of the page indicate.



    Jump to the present day. Wigan away, August 2009. Darren Fletcher comes back into the team after a limp United performance away at Burnley, where the Champions lose to the smallest town to have been promoted to the top flight since the Premiership era began. Yet another impressive performance, United thrash Wigan 5-0, Fletcher at the heart of it. The argument is no longer about whether or not the lad is good enough to play for United. Rather, there is credible debate regarding whether he is the best midfielder at the club, period. What changed?



    Personally, I view the start of the 2008/09 season as the real turning point. The previous season was perhaps Fletcher's nadir in a United shirt. He failed to start a United game until the end of December, a thumping away victory against Sunderland. He played more consistently from that point on, and injury curtailed his season somewhat, but only eleven first team starts in all competitions tells it's own story. But as the new season began, notably without the now talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo, United stuttered. Yet Fletcher impressed, scoring in the opening two games, to claim a point against Newcastle, and take all three away at our bogey fixture, Portsmouth. He looked fitter and stronger than any previous season. And more than anything else, his performances were consistent. A poor Darren Fletcher game that season was a collectors item.



    There will always be arguments about whether Fletcher deserved repeat selection on the strength of his performances back in his earlier United days. But what can't be questioned any more is that the faith shown in him by Sir Alex has paid off. He may never be Roy Keane - frankly who is? - but he doesn't have to be Roy Keane. He has to be the best Darren Fletcher he possibly can. He needs to continue putting in quality performances, and running United's midfield, especially as the influence of club legends such as Scholes and Giggs wanes towards the latter end of their careers. And of course, he needs to continue to make those who doubted him, like myself, look very silly indeed.



    Darren bloody Fletcher eh!
  2. Aug 22, 2009
    #2

    Sylar Full Member

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    I remember initially when we played the 433 formation with Ronaldo, Rooney and giggs at the top (this was the time Ruud got injured and we went on a great run including the 4-2 win at Highbury). Fletcher was doing all the running for Keane and looked amazing.

    Everytime he played on the right of midfield (especially with Ronaldo on the bench) was frustrating. Ive always believed he would be a great central midfielder (much like I believe for Gibson who has unfairly been played on the wing a few times).

    His workrate is there and it lifts the team. There are times his running has an effect which causes others to press opposition players up the pitch.

    I think there are two reasons hes coming good:
    1) Looks like hes been working in the gym to become stronger
    2) Consistent run of games in his favoured position where hes at his strongest.

    Still I think Oshea divides fans more than him.
  3. Aug 22, 2009
    #3

    Mockney Not the only poster to be named Poster of the Year

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    Great post Bradley. He's the most reliable midfielder at the club unquestionably for me. He may lack the finesse of Carrick, the natural talent of Scholes, the potential of Anderson or the tenaciouness of Hargreaves, but he's possibly the 2nd best in all those catagories (except maybe natural talent)...And the one I'd pick first out of all of them right now
  4. Aug 22, 2009
    #4

    golden_blunder mijn naam is Golden Blunder en ik hou van team LVG

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    The losses when he doesn't play speaks volumes. For me he's the number 1 pick for CM right now
  5. Aug 22, 2009
    #5

    Instant Karma Closet Gooner

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    Always believed that he would be a first team starter for us. He is our first choice midfielder now.
  6. Aug 22, 2009
    #6

    MUFC07 Full Member

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    Good read Brad.

    As I've said before, I was one of the ones that whenever he was started ahead of Ronaldo in that 03/04 season thought feck what is this idiot doing? Is he ever going to be sold? Why is Fergie still picking this guy?

    Then after 2 or 3 good games I thought well he might have a future, but when Carrick got to the club and started performing I thought that future didnt lie at our club.

    But now it's all different. He's absolutely magnificent, I do think he is underrated by many and that some still won't accept he is actually one of our best midfielders we have and I am completely confident whenever he is starting.

    Darren Fletcher, who would have thought.
  7. Aug 22, 2009
    #7

    datura Full Member

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    The first time I really thought he might make it was a cup tie away at Arsenal when he put Vieira in his place at Highbury, I think Ole might have grabbed the winner?

    It taken time for him to replicate that form on a consistent basis, and he's also worked on his weaknesses and become a far more rounded player.
  8. Aug 22, 2009
    #8

    Boothy Full Member

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    Super Darren Fletcher :D
  9. Aug 22, 2009
    #9

    greater wall Full Member

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    There are plenty who did defend him simply because the quality was there to see. He did not have the strength then and he just simply built that up over the seasons, this year he looks stronger and fitter than ever and there is even more to come from him. There is a hunger about him, the kind that Keane had, this will drive him to start dominating games with the ball.
    There is a parallel with regards to Nani and Berbatov, there is such obvious quality with those two that it is only a matter of time when people will look back and think how wrong they were.
  10. Aug 22, 2009
    #10

    Rowem Full Member

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    I never slated him as being useless as some posters did but I can't lie I welcomed the signing of Hargreaves and have been pleasantly surprised by Fletcher's development.
  11. Aug 22, 2009
    #11

    Boss Melodramatic, attention seeking space-attacker

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    Good post Brad, I like it when posters confess they made a mistake, for me Fletcher is our number one midfielder right now, it still feels weird typing it because I don't think he has the most ability but his performances speak itself. The way you used to feel about Fletcher, alot of us felt the same way.

    We could not understand how he would get into the team but now he is showing the world why Ferguson put so much faith in him. I for one admit I was wrong about Fletch and I hope he continues his good form.
  12. Aug 22, 2009
    #12

    Count Duckula Banned

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    There's no way this should get on the blog at all...

    ;)
  13. Aug 22, 2009
    #13

    Instant Karma Closet Gooner

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    Are you suggesting that Brad is a blogwhore ? :p
  14. Aug 22, 2009
    #14

    amolbhatia100 Barbiturates ain't got nothin' on me

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    There should be no divide now. Now it's a case of whether a very good midfielder can become one of the very best. So lets get behind Darren. Either way we've got a fine footballer.
  15. Aug 22, 2009
    #15

    amolbhatia100 Barbiturates ain't got nothin' on me

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    Are you suggesting Brad is a whore? :P
  16. Aug 22, 2009
    #16

    Rooney24 Full Member

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    The most under rated player in the premiership!
  17. Aug 22, 2009
    #17

    Instant Karma Closet Gooner

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    That would be OShea. Plays any position bar striker and hardly misses a beat.
  18. Aug 22, 2009
    #18

    datura Full Member

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    It is amusing the number of posts that are structured and written with the blog in mind.
  19. Aug 22, 2009
    #19

    Crustanoid Full Member

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    That's a nice summary of Fletcher's career to date. I think nowadays there are very few who doubt his ability or standing as a United regular. The debate is more about whetner he is a good or great united midfielder. As a component of a team, he is consistent, reliable and effective, but perhaps not the flashiest player. I'd like to see the with / without Fletcher stats for games over the last 18 months or so - my bet is that we have fared better with him in the side
  20. Aug 22, 2009
    #20

    B Cantona Desperate

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    It was an article wrote directly into the blog software. It automatically creates a thread to discuss it when published

    Hope you like reading it. I know the Caf is a bit Fletchered-out with threads about him at the moment, but GB challenged me to write about him so I did

    And yes, I am a whore! This is the first time I've written for a blog though :)
  21. Aug 22, 2009
    #21

    golden_blunder mijn naam is Golden Blunder en ik hou van team LVG

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    The following should take a bow...bow their heads into a vat of boiling water

    I daresay he's slit his wrists by now

    well, at least one of your wetdreams came true

    oh dear Brad..
  22. Aug 22, 2009
    #22

    pillory Full Member

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    25-9-1 in the games he's started this season and last (80% of the available points). 18-4-6 without him (69%).
  23. Aug 22, 2009
    #23

    Crustanoid Full Member

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    Cheers for finding that
    That's pretty conclusive
  24. Aug 22, 2009
    #24

    pigface Full Member

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    And this is why the gaffer is Sir Alex and the rest of us play FM. We don't get a chance to see what goes on day in and day out like Fergie. He obviously saw sommat in the lad that we can't, however we will reap the rewards for it.
  25. Aug 22, 2009
    #25

    Lailiani (Sadly not) Banned

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    Great read that, Brad.

    Fletcher really is currently our first choice midfielder and he'd be probably the first name on my teamsheet. Apart from his achievement on the pitch, he's also a role model. It was certainly not always easy for him some years ago. His performances weren't consistent and he had to put up with much stick from the fans and the press. Many other players would have lost confidence and left to try their luck with a smaller club but Fletcher clenched his teeth and worked hard. He did what he was asked to do without moaning and what is more he did his talking on the pitch. He has shown the world that with hard work and determination you actually can make it at United, against all odds. It's something that makes me a bit sad when I think about players like Rossi, because if he had stayed at United and shown determination like Fletcher, chances are he would have become a regular starter at United.

    But maybe it's a good thing, it seperates the wheat from the chaff. Those, who don't have the required United mentality, and those, who have it.
  26. Aug 22, 2009
    #26

    pillory Full Member

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    I'm not sure conclusive is the word I would use, but it's interesting. (Berbatov tops those charts with 85% vs 60%, by the way. Fletcher is second, just in front of Vidic.)
  27. Aug 22, 2009
    #27

    Crustanoid Full Member

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    Given that we're a successful side and we win most of our games anyway, the margins in those stats (for both Berbs and Fletcher) clearly show that they have a positive effect on the team.
  28. Aug 22, 2009
    #28

    friendlytramp More full of crap than a curry house toilet

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    he'd get more credit if he didn't look so sickly- sad but true
  29. Aug 22, 2009
    #29

    redhoop Full Member

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    Its certainly something that he has to battle against. He wears a permanently distressed expression - its just the way he is :lol:.

    I am just thoroughly delighted that he is cementing a pivotal role in the team. As others have said, the fact that he has had to battle hard, sometimes against his own fans, has got to add steel to his impressive backbone. Maybe he just believes in himself more now - perhaps before he was being told by others how good he is, and now he has proved this to himself. It must give him a lift to get such a positive response from the crowd - anyone would be buoyed by thousands of people cheering their name, just as it must be virtually impossible not to be affected by jeers and boos.

    Come on the Fletch!
  30. Aug 22, 2009
    #30

    Pogue Mahone Poster of the year 2008

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    Great blog, Brad. A really good read.

    I recntly accused you of being too stubborn to admit you're wrong. Turns out it's me that was wrong.

    Therefore I humbly apologise. Nice one mate :D
  31. Aug 22, 2009
    #31

    Rooney24 Full Member

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    Wow, that is fecking impressive! Knew he was having an impact, but not quite as sharp as that.
  32. Aug 22, 2009
    #32

    TonyMontana Banned

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    He is becoming my favourite United player.
  33. Aug 22, 2009
    #33

    B Cantona Desperate

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    Impressive indeed, though it does beg the question, why are there 28 games 'without him' then?

    Not something I feel tells the full story anyway, Berbatov's winning percent is the best of anyones, and he wasn't that fundimental to the side last season
  34. Aug 22, 2009
    #34

    Brophs The one and only

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    Interesting stuff, Brad.

    I'll look out for your blogs in future.
  35. Aug 23, 2009
    #35

    Denis' cuff Full Member

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    A good, rounded summary Brad.

    I'd count myself as one of his early critics and make no apologies for that. I still believe he was indulged in like no other United player (since Johnny Aston, anyway) I can think of for so little return. Still, Fergie's faith in him has paid off and although I'd say such faith could go a long way to helping many players who've been shown the door, I'm glad to see him develop as he has. It's also nice to see the tradition of Scots at OT maintained. Fletch had another blinder yesterday. Well done lad.
  36. Aug 23, 2009
    #36

    Chirag Euro '08 League Winner

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    What I am really excited about is Gibson.. Who IMO is as good if not better than Fletcher was at his age..

    P.S Is it only me that has remembered that Fletcher has now missed 2 easy opportunities in the last 2 games? (Not questioning his game other than that though) He has to start taking his opportunities and quickly.. He just has to improve that aspect of his game..
  37. Aug 23, 2009
    #37

    Alwyn Got rid of his pee

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    ^Yeah, we really need a central midfielder who not only has fantastic shooting ability (as we already have a number) but more the confidence and drive to shoot at any opportunity, and Gibson proved this today.
  38. Aug 23, 2009
    #38

    Denis' cuff Full Member

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    same here - I'm pretty excited about this one. He looked comfotable and fitted in nicely when he came on. Always looking for a pop at goal.
  39. Aug 23, 2009
    #39

    CantonasWife Queen B

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    I say good read (in the most objective way I can).. :)
  40. Aug 23, 2009
    #40

    Alwyn Got rid of his pee

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    A whiff of nepotism in the air...

    But you're right, nice one Bradley.

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