Date:Thursday July 3 2008
It wasn't a long time ago that Fletcher was hated by United supporters. Or maybe hatred is a strong word: I would just say he was unpopular, representing in many people's eyes everything that went wrong between 2003 and 2006.
It wasn't easy defending him because those who insisted that he should not be bashed had no other argument than his potential which looked dubious to say the least and the fact that he's a likeable, hard-working lad.
He showed occasional, brief glimpses of quality but apart from Sir Alex, very few souls on Earth believed he would ever make it. Yet of course it was the gaffer who got it right again.
The real breakthrough for Fletcher was 2006/07: when the going got tough and he was called upon with injuries decimating the squad, he was excellent. His best two displays came against Roma and Milan, both at Old Trafford - showing he's a big-game player, no matter how much he was jeered before.
He had real problems this season with getting into the team, with Scholes, Carrick, Hargreaves and Anderson all ahead of him in the pecking order but he still came up with a real gem: the home FA Cup tie against Arsenal was memorable for several things but Fletcher's performance stood out.
The Scottish midfielder was dynamic, always wanted the ball, passed it around well and scored twice to put the Gooners to the sword - and they never recovered from the blow. Yet Fletch was struggling to even play a bit-part role during the remainder of a highly successful season.
Now the tabloids say he wants first-team football and is contemplating leaving Old Trafford. The question is, should United sell him?
My answer, as you might have guessed if you had read all this, is no. I like him, I rate him and he's useful - he can be relied upon any time. But I accept if he's not entirely satisfied with it and I might even be forced to conclude that it would be in his best interest to pursue a move elsewhere, especially if it's true that Everton, a team with the promise of European football, are after him.
We'll see what happens but if he decides to leave, it will be a sad farewell for me.
Date:Thursday July 3 2008
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