It is hard not to feel sorry for the Scotland captain Darren Fletcher who has been with Manchester United since 2001. In that period he has seen the team he plays for and adores reach the Champions League final three times and has not been involved in any of them.
When the 2008 final came about, Darren Fletcher had not really established himself as a first team regular. That season he made a meagre 11 starts and a further 13 appearances from the substitutes bench and so it was understandable to see him left out of the team to play Chelsea that year. The 2008/09 season saw Darren Fletcher appearing much more regularly for Manchester United where he made 37 starts and 5 more sub appearances. He had been an important player that year and was the mainstay in the centre of midfield. Only Michael Carrick had appeared more times than he had in the centre of the Manchester United midfield.
Unfortunately for Darren, his hopes of playing in the 2009 final crumbled after a perfectly legal challenge to win the ball from Cesc Fabregas was deemed by the referee to be a foul and consequently he was sent off by the referee Roberto Rosetti 16 minutes from time in Manchester United’s Champions League semi final 2nd leg victory over Arsenal. That season Manchester United went on to lose in the final to a very good Barcelona team, leaving people with the question of what could have been if Darren Fletcher played in place of the Brazilian, Anderson.
Even more bad luck struck Darren Fletcher as his mysterious illness prevented him from taking part in the second half of the last season which saw Manchester United win their 19th title and reach the final of the Champions League yet again. As with the previous occasion, Manchester United went on to lose again to Barcelona in a very entertaining yet disappointing fixture.
To put the disappointment of missing out in previous years behind him, Darren Fletcher is really hoping to correct his past absences: “I’ve just had a bit of bad luck when it comes to Champions League finals. We’ve made it to three and I’ve not played in any of them. It’s a massive goal to not only play, but to win a Champions League final.”
“I think the English teams have become a lot more dominant. That’s been fairly noticeable in the last few years. We’ve (United) built up experience playing in Europe, especially the team we have now. A lot of us have been playing together for four or five years. We’ve found a way and a style of playing.”
“We know how important it is to keep the ball. It is different to the Premier League – you give the ball away in Europe and foreign teams can keep the ball for long periods. We have learnt to adapt, we’ve got used to the travel, coming back and playing games. All that experience we’ve built up has really helped us over the years.”
Hopefully Darren Fletcher can make amends this season and maybe this can become another historic year for Manchester United.
Follow me on Twitter @RedMancunia.