Manchester United's Darren Fletcher has provided a revealing insight into his determination to provide a physical challenge to any of the elite Premier League players who feel they can see him off.
Fletcher was the source of controversy after United's 2-1 defeat of Arsenal at Old Trafford in September, when the London club's manager, Arsène Wenger, hinted that he believed the player was a proponent of "anti-football" designed purely to prevent flair players from operating. Sir Alex Ferguson strongly resisted the suggestion but Fletcher's comments provide a sense of where that reputation might come from. "I love challenging myself against all the best players and a lot of them play in the Premier League," said Fletcher (right), whose superb half-volley against Everton on Saturday underlined the importance of his return to the side.
"I watch how good they are, but when we play them I think: 'Right, I'm going to see how good you really are. Fabregas, Lampard and Gerrard – I'm going to get against you and see how you like it. And when you've not got the ball I'm still going to get about you. I'm going to ask you: 'Do you fancy it? Do you like getting kicked? Do you like the fact that I am going to be at you for the whole 90 minutes? As soon as you get the ball I am going to be in your face. You are not going to like it one bit. And when we have the ball I am going to run you into the corner and you're going to follow me. Are you ready for that? Because that's what's going to happen."
Fletcher, who has come to prominence as one of United's elite players in the past two seasons, also said how he believes Cristiano Ronaldo's departure has created freedom for others.
"Much as Cristiano was brilliant, the team sacrificed a lot for him," said Fletcher, whose two goals in the Manchester derby underlined his reputation as a big-game player. "As a midfielder, I knew I couldn't go bombing forward because Cristiano had gone forward. I had to cover on the right so the left-back and left midfielder couldn't double up on our full-back."