Darren Fletcher made his first footballing appearance of 2013 in an under-21 game on Monday night.
Darren Fletcher has made his long-awaited return from illness, playing his first football of the calendar year for Manchester United's under-21 side.
Fletcher has been only a fringe player at the club ever since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel condition in 2011.
The Scotsman made a brief comeback early last season but has not played since Boxing Day until tonight.
He played 66 minutes in the under-21s 2-2 draw against Fulham, showing a clear smile of satisfaction after lasting past the hour mark.
Big smile on Darren Fletcher's face as he is subbed off. pic.twitter.com/U14Klgj0sc— Tricia (@Tr16ia) October 28, 2013
He told MUTV: "It's been a long time so it's good to get back tonight, I've been training for a few weeks now and the next progression is to get some match-time. I enjoyed it."
He even went onto add that he believes he could have played on past the 66 minutes, but did not want to push past the pre-determined plan.
His comeback has been hailed by Manchester United coaching and playing staff on Twitter.
Great to see Darren fletcher back playing tonight-great example of determination well done fletch!— phil neville18 (@fizzer18) October 28, 2013
Good to see Fletch back in action tonight— Ashley Young (@youngy18) October 28, 2013
Great to see fletch back tonight, Top pro top player top man...— Michael Carrick (@carras16) October 28, 2013
With moans consistent over the state of the club's midfield among fans and pundits alike, the potential return of Fletcher, while the first team would remain some way off, is a huge potential boost.
The Scotsman was not even really considered as a viable option this season, so his return is an ideal bonus - that of a midfielder who was once considered a key player in all the big matches by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Even to this day fans bemoan his suspension from the 2009 Champions League Final and wonder if the result would have been different.
Now just a glimmer of hope that he may get back to being anywhere near his peak, is no guarantee - but with a determined work ethic to match his commitment on the pitch, it would be hard to put anything past the 29-year-old.
Can Fletcher get back to his best? What would it mean for United's midfield if he could?
image: © Andrea Sartorati