trainee in July 2000, but injuries stymied his progress. He eventually made his debut against Basel in March 2003, but it was in the following season that Fletch made his mark, notching 35 appearances. By this stage, he was established as one of Scotland’s leading lights: he scored the solitary goal against Lithuania that earned a play-off for Euro 2004 and, later that season, aged 20, became Scotland’s youngest captain for 118 years.
The 2004/05 campaign brought Fletcher’s first goal for United, in a 2-0 win at Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day. His most famous strike to date was against Chelsea in November 2005 when he
headed the goal that ended the champions’ 40-game unbeaten run. Subsequent seasons saw him used intermittently, but the trend of selecting him for the biggest, most important games indicated the high regard in which Sir Alex holds his countryman.
That faith was displayed when, in October 2008. Darren signed a four-year contract extension. He admitted that just a few months earlier he had contemplated life away from Old Trafford, only for Sir Alex to field him regularly in the early stages of the 2008/09 season. Fletcher struck up an energetic, dominant midfield partnership with Michael Carrick and began finding the net on a more regular