For those still wondering how Manchester United failed to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League against a Swiss bloke called Basil, there was a little hint a week later when one of their key players was ruled out for the season. And we’re not talking about Nemanja Vidic.
Following the news that Vidic would be watching United’s fruitless attempt to catch Man City from the comfort of the club’s treatment tables for the rest of the season, the decision of Darren Fletcher to ‘take an indefinite break’ from football due to a bowel condition was treated
as a big blow to their title chances.
Now, while Fletcher may have improved a lot over the years, the idea that a player of his, how can we put this politely, ‘Scottish’ talents was a key United player would have been laughable about five years ago. Back then he was on a par with Sunderland ‘stars’ John O’Shea and Wes Brown.
But in these post-Glazer days of financial thriftyness, it seems he’s turned into a key cog in the Ferguson cutback scheme.
“Over the past year he has had several absence periods which we have attributed to a viral illness in order to respect his right to medical confidentiality,” said a club spokesperson.
“Darren has, in fact, been suffering from ulcerative colitis (a chronic inflammatory bowel condition) for some time preceding this. While he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period, this has proved more difficult recently and Darren’s continued desire to play, and his loyalty to both club and country, has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness.”
Of course, the more pressing problem for Ferguson now is that he no longer has a token Scottish player to put in the side. Expect a $5million bid for Middlesbrough’s Gary Robson to come.
By Peter Simpson and Roger Gadsby