On Monday afternoon, Manchester United opened up Reserves League action with a 2-1 defeat against Arsenal FC. However, encouraging news came about through first-team player Darren Fletcher participating for the full 90 minutes. The Scot missed United's pre-season tour through the United States as he stayed back in Manchester to further recover from a virus -- one that sapped him of his fitness and weight during the latter half of the 2010-11 campaign. Despite returning late in the season, Fletcher never fully regained his form and he once again was excluded from the UEFA Champions League final versus FC Barcelona, just as he was in 2009. If the industrious midfielder is able to fully recover, he provides manager Sir Alex Ferguson bite in the midfield -- something that was sorely missing at Wembley in May. (central midfield season preview)
Although winger Antonio Valencia was expected to play in the same Reserves match, he did not feature. The Ecuadorian injured his ankle while competing in Copa America this summer. His injury was to the same ankle that was severely broken last Fall, but it is not considered to be nearly as serious. Other notable participants in this match included Tomasz Kuszczak, Darron Gibson, and Paul Pogba. The former two were on the first team last season but both are seeking opportunities with other clubs as neither will be featured at United this season. The latter is a promising youngster and Ferguson has hinted that the starlet may get first team opportunities this season.