London: Scotland international Darren Fletcher provided a welcome boost to the soft-centred Manchester United midfield by making his long awaited return to action on Sunday after almost a year away with a serious bowel condition.
Fletcher’s future looked in doubt when he announced in November 2011 that he was taking an extended break from the game after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
But the 29-year-old came off the bench to play the final 20 minutes of United’s 3-0 away win at Aston Villa on Sunday, his first appearance since December 26 last year against Newcastle United.
Danny Welbeck, a fringe player under David Moyes following on from Alex Ferguson’s last season when he managed just two goals, scored two goals for United in the 15th and 18th minutes.
Midfielder Tom Cleverley scored their third goal in the 52nd minute, exactly one year to the day since his last league goal in a red shirt, to seal the match.
“This is it, I’m back for good. This is hopefully the game which means I’m back now,” he said after the win.
“I seem to have come through the setbacks and health issues and I’m thankful for that. It’s onwards and upwards now.
“I always believed I would come back, I kept that mindset.”
The Scotland captain replaced Ryan Giggs on Sunday at Villa Park and was given a warm reception by visiting supporters who have seen United struggle in the centre of their midfield this season.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to play football. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play for United and wasn’t going to give that up lightly,” Fletcher said.
“I battled through it, and I’m only 29 years old, I think I’ve got plenty more years of playing left in me.
“I could have a career all over again if I get my health right, and hopefully that’s what I’m going to do.
“It feels great to be back. I’m still building up my fitness, but I don’t want to take it easy. I’ve done enough of that, and I want to be involved, to get us back to where I know we should be.”
Fletcher is ready to help drag United up from their current position of eighth place, 10 points back of leaders Arsenal.
“I think that’s the biggest determination for me. It’s difficult watching when the lads are winning, but a lot more difficult when they’re not winning,” Fletcher said. (Reuters)