Manchester United's Fletcher desperate to avoid surgery

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The Independent Football

Darren Fletcher is hoping a pain-easing injection will delay the need for ankle surgery until next summer.

The Manchester United midfielder returned to action after a month on the sidelines in Tuesday's six-goal thriller with CSKA Moscow.

It should mean Fletcher will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, when United attempt to depose the current Premier League leaders.

However, the Scotland star knows he will still be experiencing an element of discomfort from a long-standing injury he aggravated against Sunderland last month, which he accepts will eventually consign him to surgery.

"A bit of bone has broken off the back of my ankle and stuck out about an inch," he revealed.

"Every time I bend it is causing a bit of pain so I have had an injection to clear it up for a while.

"It should be okay to the end of the season but the plan is to get me through to the summer and then do something then."

Scotland's failure to qualify for next year's World Cup Finals in South Africa provides the perfect gap for Fletcher to have the operation.

"I have had it for a couple of years now and the build-up of fluid and other medical things the doctors know more about than me has been constantly aggravating it," he said.

"Striking a ball or bending the ankle in a flexed position or pushing off it hurts.

"It got to the point where it was too sore to train and play. Something had to be done and I had the injection."

It would seem certain Fletcher will be one of the first names on Sir Alex Ferguson's team-sheet on Sunday.

Certainly, United missed Fletcher's battling qualities against Liverpool a fortnight ago, with the hole his injury left proving just as troublesome to fill as it did in Rome last May, when Barcelona ran riot in the Champions League final.

Ferguson is unlikely to leave his team similarly exposed at the weekend now Fletcher is a proven top-class performer.

For a player whose early days in the Red Devils' first-team were dismissed rather crudely, the plaudits that have followed recently must sound nice.

But Fletcher insists he is not taking them too seriously.

"I take the compliments with a pinch of salt," he said.

"I enjoy these matches as much as anyone and I put pressure on myself to perform more than anyone does.

"The challenge of playing against the top-class players that Chelsea have is one I look forward to and I will be doing my best to win the match.

"But I am not going to make or break a game like this."