Manchester United have announced that Darren Fletcher will be taking an extended break from football due to his chronic inflammatory bowel condition. The midfielder has missed considerable periods of time on numerous occasions during the current calendar year and each of those times, the club said his absence was due to a mysterious "virus." The Scotsman missed almost the entirety of last season's run-in and he also missed this season's preseason tour through the United States. Here is the statement released from the club today in regards to Fletcher:
"Over the past year he has had several absence periods which we have attributed to a viral illness in order to respect his right to medical confidentiality. Darren has, in fact, been suffering from ulcerative colitis (a chronic inflammatory bowel condition) for some time preceding this.
Whilst he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently and Darren’s continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness.
He has therefore accepted medical advice to take an extended break from the demands of training and playing in order to afford the best chance possible of achieving full remission once again.
We request that his privacy is respected and hope that the removal of the additional stress associated with speculation regarding his health will also aid his recovery."
Quite obviously, we wish Darren nothing but the best in recovery and football is obviously secondary -- at best -- when it comes to matters of health. He had appeared in 10 matches this season for United and 4 for Scotland in their quest to qualify for Euro 2012. Recently, he has been absent from the lineup and today's news reveals why.
There are already concerns in regards to United's central-midfield and this only adds to the problem. Both Tom Cleverley and Anderson are out due to long-term injury and this only leaves Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs as regular first-teamers in the center of the park. Phil Jones has started the past three matches in central-midfield and it looks as if he may feature more there now. Although, United's concern with defensive depth at the moment means that Jones will likely be utilized all throughout the defense and midfield. Park Ji-sung is an option as well but he is naturally a wide midfielder. Darron Gibson has recently been reintroduced to the club and he'll likely be used as cover as might youngster Paul Pogba. Ultimately, this may make it necessary to purchase a central-midfielder during the upcoming January window -- a market which has concerned manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the past due to the inflated prices for players. United's misfortune in this seasons UEFA Champions League means that a player being cup-tied will not be an issue if they were to purchase a player.