How important is Darren Fletcher to Manchester United?

Darren Fletcher made his return for Manchester United against Newcastle United in the Capital One Cup so will his return help the club win trophies this season.

Obviously he has only played one game so it is too early to see whether he will be able to play on a regular basis but it is a good sign that he was back on the pitch. Fletcher has been a vital part of the United side for a number of years now and has almost always been an automatic choice for the big games in Europe and Premier League. But why is he so important? I am going to compare the Scotland international with some of the other options Alex Ferguson has.

His rivals for the central midfielder spot are Shinji Kagawa, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Anderson and Tom Cleverley. Nick Powell, could also be considered in the central role but he won’t be starting many games and will be utilised a lot from the bench if he does get the chance to shine. So, let’s start with the summer signing, Kagawa. This is a tough one to call because Kagawa has already proved that he can be very creative and make things happen but if they only play two central midfielders then he may be a liability if he doesn’t stick to his defensive responsibilities. So, in the bigger games I believe Fletcher will start over Kagawa if he is fit unless either Wayne Rooney or Robin Van Persie are dropped and they switch to three in the centre of midfield. But, in other games, particularly at home when they are expected to have a lot of possession, this could be the perfect combination as we all know Fletcher will work himself into the ground and let Kagawa dictate play.

In the big games I could see Fletcher starting alongside Michael Carrick as both are decent passers and like to keep the ball ticking over, so they will be vital in keeping possession, especially away from home in Europe. But, if these two lined up against a bottom half Premier League team it would be a shock as neither have got that many goals over the years, however, at times Fletcher has proved he can grab vital goals so this tactic could work. Paul Scholes shocked us all when he returned from his retirement part way through last season and I think out of the options his preferred partner would actually be Fletcher because of his work rate and determination, allowing him to play his natural game and control the tempo of the game while also being safe in the knowledge that Fletcher will cover enough ground for the both of them.

Onto the two players that I believe will once again find themselves far down the pecking order, Tom Cleverley and Anderson. The Brazilian has flattered to deceive at Old Trafford and nobody is really sure at what he is all about, even though he has been at the club for a while now. This because he isn’t disciplined enough to play the holding role and leaves big gaps in front of the back four and when he is played in the advanced role he doesn’t influence games enough, so if Fletcher can regain form and fitness then this could be the last season Anderson is at the club in my opinion. As for Cleverely, I am still not convinced by him for exactly the same reasons but he is definitely improving and if he played next to someone like Fletcher he would get even better because he would have to exert as much energy in defending when playing with someone like Anderson, Kagawa or even Scholes. In my opinion, he has also struggled slightly playing alongside Carrick because all of the creative responsibility is on him, and that is a lot of pressure for someone his age.

So, the good thing about Fletcher is that he can compliment any of his fellow midfielders and a lot of his good work goes unnoticed but the management team and his teammates will understand what he does and it is clear to see that they are all very happy to see him on the road to recovery.

 

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Who will Craig Gordon sign for?

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon has been released by Sunderland after losing his place as their number one this season.

Craig Gordon has played 40 times for Scotland

The Scotland international was signed for £9 million in 2007 which at the time was the highest fee a British club had paid for a goalkeeper and to begin with it looked as though he was worth every penny. But soon things started going wrong as he was dropped to the bench after conceding seven goals against Everton. His first season at the club he played the most games in his Sunderland career and eventually Simon Mignolet took his place permanently and towards the end of last season it was obvious that he wasn’t going to get a new contract. However, one of the finest moments of his career must have been his save against Bolton Wanderers in 2010 which was voted the best save at the Premier League 20 seasons awards.

He does still have his admirers and I’m sure a lot of clubs will be hoping to convince him to sign for them. Surprisingly though, Tottenham Hotspur are linked with him and I was really shocked by this as they have a very good number one in Brad Friedel who is very consistent and plays in every league game, even though he is getting towards the end of his career, it doesn’t look like he is planning to retire anytime soon with some very impressive saves last season. However, if Gordon is willing to wait for at least a season he could become Spurs’ number one in a few years time and in the meantime he will still be playing Europa League and cup football which is something that he didn’t even get at Sunderland. So if the interest is genuine then I could see this transfer happening.

A more realistic transfer could be to Celtic as he has already proven that he is one of the best ever in the Scottish Premier League when he played for Hearts as he was inducted into their hall of fame at the age of only 24, which makes him the youngest player to receive this honour. Celtic may need a goalkeeper too as Fraser Forster was only on loan from Newcastle United last season and even though his contract has expired there, compensation will still need to paid which could be up to £2 million. With Gordon being a free, I think he would be a much better option anyway as I have never been convinced by Forster.

Finally, another team I have seen linked with goalkeeper is Wigan Athletic and this does not seem likely to me either unless they are losing Ali Al Habsi in the summer because Al-Habsi proved time and time again last season that he is too good for Wigan and should be playing for a team that is challenging for Europe. So if Al Habsi leaves then yes I think Gordon would be an adequate replacement but I cannot see him becoming their number one if the Oman international stays at the DW.