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Darren Barr Fletcher (born 1 February 1984 in Dalkeithmarker, Scotlandmarker) is a Scottishmarker football currently playing for Premier League club Manchester United. A product of United's youth academy, Fletcher initially struggled to break into the first team but now regularly features in the midfield. The industrious player also captained the Scotland national team in the absence of then regular captain Barry Ferguson, making Fletcher one of the youngest players ever to captain Scotland at full international level. With Ferguson banned from international football after a breach of regulations, Fletcher was given the captain's armband in August 2009.

Club career

Fletcher has been at Manchester United for his whole career coming up from the youth team. Fletcher joined Manchester United as a trainee in July 2000 and he signed a professional contract in February 2001. He was initially seen as a right midfielder in the David Beckham mould and was tipped by many to break into the first team with ease and stay there for many years to come. His first few seasons at the club, however, were marred by injury, and as he developed came to be viewed more as a central midfielder.

Fletcher broke into the Manchester United team during the 2003-04 campaign, playing a number of important matches and starting in United's FA Cup Final win over Millwall in May 2004.

Despite a slow start to the 2004-05 campaign, in which in the early part of the season he made very few competitive appearances, Fletcher again broke into the United first team. On 1 January 2005, Fletcher scored his first goal at club level in a 2–0 win over Middlesbrough.

Fletcher was one of the players singled out for criticism by club captain Roy Keane in the wake of United's 4–1 defeat to Middlesbrough in October 2005. Keane reportedly said, "I can't understand why people in Scotland rave about Darren Fletcher." However, Keane later attempted to set the record straight stating, "If you listen to any of my comments over the last two or three years, if I've given any player credit over the years it would be Fletch. Fletch will tell you that himself." Fletcher went some way towards answering his critics on 6 November 2005, with his performance in the vital league match at home to Chelsea, scoring the only goal of the game with a looping header. His winning goal ended Chelsea's forty-match unbeaten run in the Premier League.

In 2006-07, at the start of the season he retained a place in the first team but only on the bench and scored in an away win over Charlton Athletic, as well as scoring the headed winner in the away game with Middlesbrough in December and another headed goal in the home win against Charlton in February, making it a double against the club that season. As the season progressed, Alex Ferguson preferred the midfield quartet of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs, limiting Fletcher to a few substitute appearances. However, with Paul Scholes absent through suspension, he made a starting appearance in United's 7–1 win over AS Roma in the Champions League quarter-final.

In the 2007-08 season, with the further arrival at the club of playmakers Owen Hargreaves and Anderson and winger Nani, Fletcher played even less than during the previous season, and was even rumoured at one time to want to leave the club out of displeasure at not playing enough. Indeed, as before, Ferguson preferred Carrick, Scholes, Giggs and Ronaldo to him in midfield, and he even played less than the new arrivals. He did, however, put in some stalwart performances when given the chance, including two goals in the 4-0 defeat of Arsenal at Old Trafford in the FA Cup Fourth Round.

In the 2008-09 season, he started the first two games, due to the injuries of Carrick and Ronaldo, and scored against Newcastle United at Old Traffordmarker in Manchester United's first Premier League match of the season, forcing a 1–1 draw after Obafemi Martins' goal. Fletcher notched his second goal of the season opening the scoring from close range against Portsmouth, following a pass from Patrice Evra. He was later shown a yellow card on the 93rd minute before the match ended 1–0. On 3 October 2008, Fletcher signed a three-year extension to his contract with Man Utd, keeping him at the club until 2012. Fletcher notched his third goal of the season against Everton on 25 October. He then went onto to score in the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against Gamba Osaka on 18 December 2008 after coming off the bench. In the Champions League semi-final second leg against Arsenal on 5 May 2009, Fletcher was shown a red card ruling him out of the Champions League Final. There have been calls for this decision to be overturned, but apart from mistaken identity, there is no appeal procedure for red cards in UEFA competition. Manchester United launched an appeal with UEFA to have the semi final red card overturned on 'compassionate' grounds on 7 May 2009, but this was rejected on 11 May.

The 2009-10 season has seen Fletcher consolidate his place in the heart of the United midfield, starting all the important games for United. He opened his scoring account for the season with a double in the first Manchester derby of the season, a memorable 4-3 victory for United, he twice put United in front before Michael Owen scored in the sixth minute of added time. He was awarded with the Barclays Man of the Match award for his performance. On 21 November 2009, Fletcher scored his third of the season, and arguably his best goal for United, hitting a half volley from the edge of the area into the top corner giving United a 1-0 lead against Everton in a 3-0 win.

International career

Fletcher has established himself as a regular choice for Scotland and scored his first goal in a 1-0 win over Lithuania, having come off the bench for only his second cap. His goal took Scotland to the play-offs for Euro 2004. On 26 May 2004, he captained Scotland to a 1-0 friendly win against Estonia in Tallinnmarker. This made him the youngest Scotland captain since John Lambie of Queen's Park led the side that beat Ireland 7-2 on Saturday, 20 March 1886. Lambie was aged just 17 years and 92 days.

Fletcher's improvement for his national side was capped by a 25-metre strike in an October 2005 World Cup qualifier against Slovenia. Fletcher was Scotland's vice-captain under Alex McLeish, deputising in the absence of regular captain Barry Ferguson, but following then the removal of Barry Ferguson as captain in 2009, Fletcher was named as full time captain in November 2009.

International goals

Scores and results list (Scotland's goal tally first).


Goal Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 11 October 2003 Hampden Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 1-0 1-0 UEFA Euro 2004 Qual.
2 30 May 2004 Easter Roadmarker, Edinburghmarker 1-0 4-1 Friendly
3 12 October 2005 Arena Petrolmarker, Celjemarker 1-0 3-0 2006 FIFA World Cup Qual.
4 2 September 2006 Celtic Parkmarker, Glasgowmarker 1-0 6-0 UEFA Euro 2008 Qual.


Personal life

Fletcher is the father of twin boys, Jack and Tyler (born 2007) with English girlfriend, Hayley Grice.He was one of many footballers in the Manchester and Liverpool area whose home was robbed while playing away games when thieves raided his house in February 2009. Grice was held at knifepoint by the thieves . The incident occurred while Fletcher was in Milanmarker for Manchester United's Champions League fixture against Internazionale.

Fletcher is involved in a programme to encourage "Deaf Friendly Football" for youngsters. The programme is run by the Manchester United Foundation and the National Deaf Children's Society.

Career statistics

Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Manchester United 2002–03 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0
2003–04 22 0 5 0 2 0 6 0 0 0 35 0
2004–05 18 3 3 0 3 0 5 0 1 0 30 3
2005–06 27 1 3 0 4 0 7 0 0 0 41 1
2006–07 24 3 6 0 1 0 9 0 0 0 40 3
2007–08 16 0 1 2 0 0 6 0 1 0 24 2
2008–09 26 3 3 0 1 0 8 0 4 1 42 4
2009–10 10 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 12 3
Total 143 13 21 2 11 0 45 0 7 1 227 16


Statistics accurate as of match played 28 November 2009

Honours

Club

Manchester United


Country



References

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/8035053.stm
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/8032998.stm
  3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/8010853.stm
  4. Includes other competitive competitions, including the FA Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup


External links




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