Date: 4th March 2011 at 11:31am
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Super Darren does his idiosyncratic goal celebration that resembles part of the buttefly stroke

Super Darren does his idiosyncratic goal celebration that resembles part of the butterfly stroke

Following Michael Carrick’s contract extension yesterday is the news that Darren Fletcher is also poised to sign a new deal in the next fortnight.

Fletcher’s been at the club all his playing career and it will come as no surprise that both he and United want him to stay at Old Trafford long term.

Had you asked me six months ago what I thought of the prospect of seeing Fletcher playing out the rest of his career at Old Trafford, I would probably have replied along these lines:

“Fantastic, great player, who’s come on leaps and bounds since his early struggles and if he can just find a greater level of consistency, comparison’s with Keano and Robbo wouldn’t be that far-fetched.”

At the beginning of this season, I wrote an article claiming that if United were to regain the Premier League title then Darren Fletcher was going to have to perform against the lesser teams as he did against the bigger ones.
Fletcher’s performances against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Milan needed to be recreated against the Bolton’s and Sunderland’s of this world, if United were to win that elusive 19th title.

Six months on and Fletcher seems to have not only failed to recreate the ‘big game’ performances which had become his forte against the lesser teams, he also seems to have lost much of his ability in some of the big games as well.

In fact although this may sound harsh, I d go as far to say Fletcher’s having his worst season since the dark days of 2005-06 when almost every United fan questioned how on earth he’d managed to earn himself a place in the squad.

There’s a saying “form is temporary class is permanent” and it usually rings true. Whenever over the past 20 years I’ve been critical or questioned players such as Giggs, Cole, or Rooney, I’ve been left with an omelette’s worth of egg on my face as they’ve proven that a dip in form is always a minor blip that is part and parcel of being expected to perform week in week out, for a club the size of Manchester United.

Players go through peaks and troughs and it’s worth remembering that only a few months ago many were advocating a policy of selling a certain Bulgarian who’s now the darling of both fans and media alike.

The question I’ve found myself asking when it comes to Darren Fletcher is “how long does form last for?” How many poor performances does it take before you say: “this is a poor season”? Had a striker put in as many bad games this season  as Fletcher has I’d wager his goal scoring record would be around the three goal mark. That’s roughly how many times I’ve been really impressed with Fletcher this season. He seems to have gone off the boil to an alarming degree.

I’m loathe to criticise a player that on his day has grabbed United by the scruff of the neck, slammed Cesc Fabregas into his back pocket and said: “Right boys, we’re winning this game. Believe.” But I’m afraid I must be honest about my concerns.

Lately Fletcher seems more adept at saying “it’s got nowt to do with me boys, why don’t you ask someone else.”

I respect and admire Fletcher massively, mainly due to the fact he was able to turn his seemingly pointless Old Trafford career around despite all his critics. Fletcher went from one of the most ridiculed figures at United to one of the most loved when lesser men would have simply moved on and tried to find a club where they were appreciated.

Fletcher didn’t however, he rolled up his sleeves, well he would have done if he didn’t always wear short sleeve shirts- that’s the Scottish immunity to cold for you- and knuckled down to becoming one of the most important members of the team.

It was a quite astonishing transformation how Fletcher went from much maligned fringe player, to the man who’s suspension from the Champion’s League final, many blamed on United’s loss.

Last season Fletcher picked up from where he’d left off, I don’t mean by being suspended, putting in the ‘barnstorming performances’ more consistently, particularly against the top teams. Admittedly his passing still left a little to be desired and he did have a tendency to fade somewhat against the lesser teams but such was his improvement,  these small quibbles could be forgiven.

The logic was his ascendancy would continue as it had done for the past few years so that these problems would be ironed out and he’d become the player he was against Arsenal, against everyone else.

Something seemed to go drastically wrong this season, at first it was a minor annoyance, that Fletcher wasn’t imposing himself on games. Then it became a real concern before becoming an alarming worry. His problems can almost be traced back to one game in particular – Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Fletcher started the match brightly then following his mistake for Steven Gerrard’s free-kick seemed to sap, the energy, confidence and ability out of him.

Fletcher’s struggled for much of the season, never quite being able to make his mark on games the way he used to. There have been occasions of course, where Fletcher’s been superb, well one occasion against Spurs at home anyway. Other than that the Scottish captain seems to go from mediocre to poor and back again.

The reason I write this is not to simply stick the knife in but to pose a genuine question to my fellow Reds: Am I alone in thinking Fletcher’s poor form cannot continue? Or am I just being overly harsh?

It’s not as though he doesn’t have the ability, it’s just that this season Fletcher for me has been a severe let down. There are rare glimpses of what we’ve been missing. In the Manchester derby at Old Trafford there was a  20 minute spell when Fletcher was excellent, but that small drop of gold in a puddle of p*ss, simply highlighted the problem. Fletcher’s no longer the force he was and my worry is will this poor season carry on until the end and possibly into the next one?

More importantly for United how long can Fletcher’s sub-standard showings be tolerated?

Darren Fletcher used to be ’Super’ my only hope is, that he will be again and soon.

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One response to “Where Has Darren Fletcher Gone?”

  1. @stockportred says:

    I don’t think our switch to 4-4-2 has helped him at all. I think he works best in 4-3-3/4-5-1.