Could this Manchester United academy graduate solve Moyes’ problem?

Darren Fletcher

Fletcher's return from injury is a timely boost for player and club.

No-one will have been more relieved to finally get back out onto a football pitch on Sunday than Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher – no-one, perhaps, except his manager.

Fletcher made his comeback in United’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park. The 29-year-old had not appeared since Boxing Day after having surgery on a bowl condition.

And as he replaced Ryan Giggs after 80 minutes on Sunday, it was a timely reminder for United fans over what they have been missing in Fletcher’s lengthy absence from the side.

Fletcher revels in the less glamorous side of the game. With a natural preference for the deep-lying central midfield role, the Scot likes to get his foot on the ball and dictate the pace of a match. It was an art he perfected after a difficult start to his United career.

As well as a fine passing game, he has an excellent temperament and is strong in the tackle.

Or, to put it another way, Fletcher is everything that Manchester United have been missing. Too often this season United’s soft centre has been exposed, with Marouane Fellaini, Tom Cleverly and Phil Jones lacking the attributes to dominate a contest from midfield.

Fletcher’s return could provide David Moyes with some relief. While the United manager insisted after the win at Villa Park that he will not rush to give Fletcher a run of games - a sensible stance to take given the player’s health – he will know too that Fletcher’s ability and experience could provide just the boost his team have been missing, and may also negate the need to dip into the transfer market when the window opens next month.

Fletcher also thrives in the biggest matches – Sir Alex Ferguson once suggested that the reason United lost the 2011 Champions League final was because Fletcher was suspended.

Moyes, however, will remain cautious. He said after the Villa game: “I was really impressed because we are not sure where he is. He has had a few reserve games and has been training, and you can never tell until he gets into the senior games.”

United’s next three games take them away to NorwichCity and HullCity, while they host West Ham United on Saturday. Before those matches comes a Capital One Cup tie at StokeCity, where Fletcher will almost certainly make his second appearance of the season.

It is far too early to suggest that Fletcher is the answer to Moyes’s midfield problem, but it is certainly a huge boost for all at the club that he is back on the field.

image: © apasciuto

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