Fletcher recognition delights Ferguson

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The Independent Football

Darren Fletcher returns to the Manchester United side tonight with Sir Alex Ferguson delighted his fellow Scot's industry is now receiving full acclaim.

For many years, the 25-year-old midfielder remained a peripheral figure at Old Trafford, with most fans questioning why he remained at the club.

But over the past 18 months, the Dalkeith-born star has become one of the most influential members of Ferguson's squad.

Fletcher's absence was cited as the major reason for United's UEFA Champions League capitulation in Rome last May.

And the same assessment was made 10 days ago when Liverpool enjoyed a rare day of success in their miserable recent run.

"Most people now recognise Darren Fletcher as a big-game player," said Ferguson.

"We have been aware of that for quite a while. Now he is getting an acceptance that he is a very important player for us.

"Our fans see that he is a key player in major games. That has been very important to the lad because it gives him a confidence.

"He has been missed in some key games recently and yes, it is great to have the boy back."

Fletcher returns to face CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford knowing victory will ease United into the Champions League knock-out phase with two games to spare, allowing Ferguson to concentrate fully on the Premier League campaign, starting with Sunday's trip to Chelsea.

Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs have already been ruled out, while there are also doubts over Dimitar Berbatov, who suffered a bang on his knee-cap against Blackburn on Saturday, and Wayne Rooney, who is celebrating the birth of his son Kai Wayne.

Another man who will definitely miss out is Rio Ferdinand, who was the victim of a stinging attack from former England coach Graham Taylor on Saturday.

Taylor put his neck on the line by stating Ferdinand's best years were behind him and he would no longer be a force for his country and might struggle to maintain his form for Manchester United.

Ferguson disagrees totally.

"In my time here we have always had one of our star players finding he gets criticised when he has a little blip," he said.

"It seems to be part and parcel of being a player at Manchester United. We are all aware of that.

"No player likes to be criticised. We all like to be loved and want arms around our shoulders at times.

"But he will come out of it, there is no question about that.

"There is no discernible depreciation in his qualities. None at all."