One of the better stories in sports is being hidden in the shadows of the media spotlight which has been focused on the arrival of Louis van Gaal to Manchester United.
Taking nothing away from the Dutch manager’s ability to re-focus and re-energize a squad of players which finished in seventh place last season in the Barclay’s Premier League while leading them to four pre-season victories during their tour of the United States.
Prior to the start of the International Champions Cup, if you had asked any footballing experts who they thought would be facing off in tomorrow’s final in Miami, Louis van Gaal’s side would not have been high on their list.
Even though it is pre-season, Van Gaal does deserve the attention he’s been getting from the press for beginning the restoration process at Old Trafford so quickly.
But what has been lost in the media frenzy which has been zeroed in on Van Gaal and the endless rumors surrounding United’s potential transfer targets has been the play of midfielder Darren Fletcher.
Hands down, Darren Fletcher has been Manchester United’s most consistent and reliable player throughout the entire four games of the club’s preseason tour of the US.
Prior to the tour, when Michael Carrick went down with an injury, United were left with limited “experienced” options in the midfield.
Ander Herrera is talented, but was new to the club. Tom Cleverley has seen a significant drop in productivity since his initial surge following the retirement of Paul Scholes in 2011. Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata are not central midfielders; it is obvious to most that both players are better suited for the number 10 role.
So that left Fletcher to shoulder the majority of the responsibilities in United’s midfield.
What Fletcher has done with his pre-season displays is almost guarantee that he will be handed the captain’s armband by Louis van Gaal once the curtain is lifted to the 2014-15 BPL season.
The 30-year-old Scotland international has clocked more minutes than any other United player in these four games, while being the perfect link between United’s defense and attack. He scored the match winning penalty during Manchester United shootout victory over Inter Milan and captained the club during yesterday’s impressive win over Real Madrid in front of 109,318 people at ‘The Big House’ in Michigan.
These efforts are coming from a player who had only returned to the club for a brief time last season after he had suffered three years of pain and frustration following his battle with chronic bowel disease ulcerative colitis. A sickness that left him weakened and on the brink of death.
When asked about his journey, Fletcher responded:
“I don’t want to look back, but everyone knows I’ve been through a lot. I have not had a pre-season for three years but now I am back in the gym and I am feeling the benefits from that. I am getting stronger and hopefully I can get as fit as possible. I am looking forward to the new season.”