Fletcher's career in jeopardy as he fights chronic condition

 

The Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher looks set to miss the rest of the season at the very least as he battles the chronic bowel condition ulcerative colitis which could prove career-threatening – the latest blow to befall Sir Alex Ferguson's side in the space of a week.

The club captain, Nemanja Vidic, ruptured three ligaments in the defeat to Basle last week and could miss up to a year, although it is Fletcher's condition that appears the more serious. The club finally disclosed the mystery illness that caused the Scottish midfielder to miss the best part of two months last season and has limited the 27-year-old's appearances this season.

Announcing that Fletcher would be taking a break from playing, the club conceded that his "continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness".

The condition can cause diarrhoea, bowel inflammation, stomach pain and, in the worst cases, the sufferer can lose control of their bowel movements. It can be made more serious by stress and United's reference to Fletcher's attempts to play again having "compromised" him could allude to the medication that can be used to treat the condition.

Former England rugby captain Lewis Moody, who also suffers from ulcerative colitis, has a "therapeutic use exemption" granted under the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency for his medication. The Bath player has admitted that on "bad days" he needs as many as eight tablets to control his condition.

United said they had been reluctant to make public Fletcher's condition "in order to respect his right to medical confidentiality" and that he had been suffering from ulcerative colitis before this year, when his absences became noticeable.

After appearing as a substitute against Liverpool on 6 March he played just twice more last season, unusual for a player who has been a regular at United since 2003. He missed the club's pre-season tour to the United States in the summer and his appearances for United and Scotland have been intermittent since then. His condition was previously given by the club as a "viral illness", although he admitted in September to having lost a stone in weight.

Despite knowing about the severity of his condition, the club still agreed a new four-year contract with the player in March, which suggests that they have confidence in him making a return at some point.

The United statement continued: "Whilst he [Fletcher] was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently and Darren's continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness."

It leaves Ferguson with even fewer options in central midfield. He now only has Michael Carrick, Anderson and Ryan Giggs to choose from in that position, with Tom Cleverley injured. Darron Gibson and Paul Pogba remain on the fringes.

The Internazionale midfielder Wesley Sneijder has long been identified as a possible addition. A more like-for-like replacement for Fletcher is Javi Martinez, the Athletic Bilbao player, or Nicolas Gaitan, the Argentine who impressed for Benfica against United in the Champions League.

Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn