The football world’s eyes are at last wide open to what the boss knew all along – Darren Fletcher is pure gold. The 25-year-old’s emergence as one of English football’s finest engine-room controllers has surprised a few, but his displays have vindicated Sir Alex’s faith in him. We spoke to Fletch – proud father whose twin toddlers make his on-field challenges seem a doddle – about his hard-earned authority as a top-class midfielder...
A year ago you said you were playing your best football, but you’ve stepped it up yet another level since then…
I’m enjoying everything at the moment because the team is successful. Last season was great, despite the disappointment of the Champions League final. That low was partly because it was the last game as well, but if you look back on what we achieved right throughout the season it was fantastic. I played in a lot of big games and was given a consistent run in the side. The most important thing for me this season has been to kick on and not sit back and take my place for granted. At United you’re proving your worth in every game, there’s always someone who wants to take your shirt. That drives you on. I want to keep improving as a player, as I feel I have done in every season I’ve been here. You look at Giggsy, Scholesy and Gary Neville – as they’ve got older they’ve improved through their experience, knowledge, maturity and application of what they do off the pitch as much as on it.
The coaches have spoken of your determination to improve. Does the hard work you’ve shown to get where you are now bring added satisfaction?
This is a level that I’ve been striving to reach. The way I’m playing now, I’m the player I’ve always wanted to show people I could be. I’m not saying I’ve worked harder than anyone else, I’ve just tried to make sure I improve my game – and things have really paid off. Doing weights is a big thing for me now, whereas before it didn’t seem to have much effect. But just because you’re in the gym, that doesn’t make you a great player. It’s small percentages of improvement that help you become a better athlete and player. Becoming a father has really helped, too. Having two lads [twins Jack and Tyler] has matured me as a person, and that helps on the pitch as well.
What difference has having the boys made to you off the pitch and on it?
Having the boys has helped take my mind away from football, which is no bad thing. When I was younger I was intense and uptight about how well I was playing. I was constantly thinking about situations in games, what I could do