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Darren Fletcher


Darren Fletcher

Fletcher has been at Manchester United for his whole career coming up from the youth team. Fletcher joined Manchester United as a trainee in July 2000 and he signed a professional contract in February 2001. He was initially seen as a right midfielder in the David Beckham mould and was tipped by many to break into the first team with ease and stay there for many years to come. His first few seasons at the club, however, were marred by injury, and as he developed came to be viewed more as a central midfielder.

Fletcher broke into the Manchester United team during the 2003-04 campaign, playing a number of important matches and starting in United's FA Cup Final win over Millwall in May 2004.

Despite a slow start to the 2004-05 campaign, in which in the early part of the season he made very few competitive appearances, Fletcher again broke into the United first team. On 1 January 2005, Fletcher scored his first goal at club level in a 2–0 win over Middlesbrough.

Fletcher was one of the players singled out for criticism by club captain Roy Keane in the wake of United's 4–1 defeat to Middlesbrough in October 2005. Keane reportedly said, "I can't understand why people in Scotland rave about Darren Fletcher." However, Keane later attempted to set the record straight stating, "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." Fletcher went some way towards answering his critics on 6 November 2005, with his performance in the vital league match at home to Chelsea, scoring the only goal of the game with a looping header. His winning goal ended Chelsea's forty-match unbeaten run in the Premier League.

In 2006-07, at the start of the season he retained a place in the first team but only on the bench and scored in an away win over Charlton Athletic, as well as scoring the headed winner in the away game with Middlesbrough in December and another headed goal in the home win against Charlton in February, making it a double against the club that season. As the season progressed, Alex Ferguson preferred the midfield quartet of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs, limiting Fletcher to a few substitute appearances. However, with Paul Scholes absent through suspension, he made a starting appearance in United's 7–1 win over AS Roma in the Champions League quarter-final.

In the 2007-08 season, with the further arrival at the club of playmakers Owen Hargreaves and Anderson and winger Nani, Fletcher played even less than during the previous season, and was even rumoured at one time to want to leave the club out of displeasure at not playing enough. Indeed, as before, Ferguson preferred Carrick, Scholes, Giggs and Ronaldo to him in midfield, and he even played less than the new arrivals.

In the 2008-2009 season, he started the first two games, due to the injuries of Carrick and Ronaldo, and scored against Newcastle United at Old Trafford in Manchester United's first Premier League match of the season, forcing a 1–1 draw after Obafemi Martins' goal. Fletcher notched his second goal of the season opening the scoring from close range against Portsmouth, following a pass from Patrice Evra. He was later shown a yellow card on the 93rd minute before the match ended 1–0.

On 3 October 2008, Fletcher signed a three-year extension to his contract with Man Utd, keeping him at the club until 2012. Fletcher notched his third goal of the season against Everton on 25 October.
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