Darren Fletcher perhaps has more reason than most to be fired up for Sunday’s visit to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
It was, of course, the scene of the 'crime' of his unfair dismissal in the Champions League semi-final against the Gunners last year, which meant United were shorn of his considerable talents in the final against Barcelona.
Then, earlier this season after United’s 2-1 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger’s ‘anti-football’ jibe must have stuck in the throat for a player whose honesty is as obvious as his endeavour. But Sir Alex Ferguson refuses to accept either incident will fuel the fire of his combative midfield enforcer.
Asked if his fellow Scot, who over the last three seasons has matured into one of the finest and now most-respected midfielders in the Premier League, was effective as a destructive force, Sir Alex took exception.
“I wouldn’t say he was destructive,” said the boss. “He’s competitive. And it’s maybe taken a while for the fans and the press to appreciate the qualities the boy has. There is nothing you can do about that because he’s not a stylish player by any manner or means. He’s ungainly, he’s gangly. But he’s a fantastic player.
Fletcher’s more subtle qualities have come to the fore in the current team, so much so that he is now considered to be one of the key components of the side. Sir Alex explains why: "He shows great movement, energy and commitment in every game, and it’s wonderful to see the level of endurance he can put into a match. He must run more than anyone.
”I don’t think there are many players who run off the ball as well as him. When we get the ball, he moves. He reminds me a lot of Brian McClair in that way. Brian was exactly the same. When the ball moved, he moved. And he was a fantastic player for us that way. Darren is in the same mould in terms of his energy and his awareness of space. But we’ve been saying that for a while. There are not many big games that Darren hasn’t played in."