against Mourinho’s machine-like Chelsea, unbeaten in 40 league matches. Fletch was brilliant and even netted the winner with a far-post looping header. United had been poor in losing to Middlesbrough (4-1, ouch) and Lille in the previous two matches, leading to some heavy criticism and claims the empire was crumbling. When the pressure was on, the odds against, Fletch delivered.
22.10.06 United 2-0 Liverpool, Premier League
This game is best remembered as Paul Scholes’s 500th in a United shirt and for Rio Ferdinand’s left-footed screamer, but at the heart of a dominant Reds display was Fletcher. He set the tone with an early tackle on John Arne Riise and thereafter put in a tireless Man-of-the-Match shift.
24.04.07 United 3-2 AC Milan, Champions League semi-final
Rose to another huge occasion with a midfield-bossing Man-of-the-Match display against Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf and co. Rooney and Ronaldo may have scored, but Fletch provided the platform. He won tackles all over the pitch, wouldn’t allow the Rossoneri to play, and was a threat going forward.
16.02.08 United 4-0 Arsenal, FA Cup fifth round
Industry, drive and endeavour as Darren covered every blade of grass and harried the Gunners into submission in another star man showing. He did his bit in front of goal with a brace of headed goals, one on 20 minutes and the other powered in at the back stick with 15 minutes to go. Many plaudits went to a rampant Rooney, but Fletch was key in making this a one-sided tie.