Speaking of Fletcher’s fitness Sir Alex Ferguson said on Friday:
“He’s put some weight back on,”
“That’s good news. His progress isn’t bad now.”
The Scottish captain has been out for several weeks with a virus during which time The Reds have continued their quest for every major honour fairly unabated. In fact since Fletcher’s last appearance- as a late substitute at Anfield, United have won six games on the spin including victories over Chelsea and Arsenal, two teams the midfielder usually shines against.
The absence of Fletcher in all honesty hasn’t been felt that much for one simple reason. He’s been awful all season. This may sound harsh- especially from a man who in the past has defended the likes of Darron Gibson and Bebe, but allow me to elucidate.
Let me ask you a question: “How many good performances has Fletcher produced this season?” Not sure, then let me rephrase it: “name me a game this season where you’ve left the ground thinking ‘Fletcher played well’.”
While you ponder that I’ll give you my answers: One game against Spurs at Old Trafford. That’s the single time this season I’ve been impressed with Fletcher for a full 90 minutes. He may have had the odd good half hour- City at Old Trafford in the second half- but all in all he’s been pretty pants for much of the campaign. I’d go as far as to say it’s his worst season since 2004-05.
Rather than building on the excellent form he’s shown in the last two seasons Fletcher seems to have become a virtual passenger in the middle of the park. The irony is all season the subject of Michael Carrick and why according to many Reds he’s not good enough has been discussed almost non-stop. Even Carrick’s sterling performance against Chelsea was merely an excuse for some of his critics to highlight why he doesn’t perform to that level more often.
While I’m not about to open up the whole Carrick debate, I will again pose a question: “has Carrick played better than Fletcher this season?” Surely he has, as even if you’re not too enamoured of the former Spurs midfielder, there’s no denying that he’s been more useful to the team than his Scottish counterpart.
Fletcher seems to have gone off the boil to an alarming degree this season so much so that it’s not even certain he’ll get back into the side once he is fit.
This is or the more remarkable considering Fletcher was cited by many as the reason United struggled against Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League final. On his day there’s no doubt he’s one of the best midfielders in the world, especially when it comes to breaking teams attacks down or keeping Cesc Fabregas quiet.
The problem is those days seem few and far between this season, although if Fletcher can make not just a physical recovery but also regain his form then he could be the difference between United going one better than that fateful night in Rome.
With every game a cup final United cannot afford too many important players going missing and while this season hasn’t been his best, there’s still time for Fletcher to redeem himself.