Fletcher to stay and fight for his place
Thursday 17 January 2008
Darren Fletcher has committed himself to Manchester United, optimistic that he will end the season as a Premier League champion once more.
The Scotland international has managed only two starts during the club's title defence so far, having found himself squeezed out due to the excellent form of new arrival Anderson.
Although he came on as a late substitute in the six-goal hammering of Newcastle at the weekend, Fletcher's frequent absences have led to suggestions of a move away from Old Trafford.
Boyhood idols Celtic would almost certainly be interested should Fletcher make it known he wished to return north of the border, while it has come as little surprise that his former national team manager Alex McLeish was keen to take Fletcher south to Birmingham. But the 23-year-old is not interested.
While understandably frustrated at his lack of senior exposure this term, Fletcher is concentrating solely on ensuring United retain their championship crown and make progress on losing appearances in the Champions League semi-finals and FA Cup final last season.
"I am still happy playing for Manchester United and I am not thinking of going elsewhere," he said."I never heard anything about Birmingham being interested, I just know I want to be here for a long time.
"My only focus is on being ready when the manager needs me and being able to perform for the club when asked. I really do feel this is a time when we can really kick on. The manager always says Christmas is the period when the season really starts.
"Hopefully, the experience we gained from winning the league last season will count at the end of this one. Last year, a few of us had not been down this road before. We have done it now so the challenge is to get to the level of people like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, who have done it year after year."
Fletcher may well re-assess the situation at the end of the campaign, although Ferguson would doubtless be reluctant to lose one of his loyal foot soldiers who, over the past 12 months, has proved himself adept as an emergency full-back.
Certainly, the Scot rarely lets the Red Devils down on the biggest stage and he was one of United's top performers against Roma last month as Ferguson's side came within 19 minutes of recording only their third win on Italian soil.
"In terms of numbers and quality, this is a very strong squad," Fletcher said. "We came close last season but unfortunately it didn't happen. We feel with the acquisitions we have had, with the strength of the squad and the form of the team that we can go further."
However, Fletcher has no complaints about his frequent absences, admitting Anderson's impressive form has made it extremely difficult for Ferguson to leave out the South American.
"It is frustrating because any player wants to play," he said."But basically, it has been down to the form of the midfield. Fair play to Anderson, when Paul Scholes got injured, he came in and has been in great form. The manager has stuck by him, which is what he does when you perform well, and has had a run in the team. We will see how things pan out at the end of the season in terms of games played and what you have contributed to the squad. But I am not thinking about that just now. I am just looking to the short term and I would like to win a few trophies and hopefully go a few steps further than last year."
Undoubtedly, the Premier League situation took a major turn for the better at the weekend as United followed up Arsenal's surprise home draw with Birmingham by hitting six past the ailing Magpies to hit the top of the table.
As Kolo Touré, Emmanuel Eboué and Alexandre Song are engaged at the African Nations Cup, the Gunners' forces are depleted at present and a two-legged Carling Cup semi-final with Tottenham offers another distraction United do not have.
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