If Darren Fletcher returns, it'll be as a holding-midfielder according to Sir Alex Ferguson

Shaun Botterill

If Darren Fletcher can recover from surgery to resolve his Ulcerative Colitis and return to the football pitch, it likely won't be as an energetic box-to-box midfielder.

First and foremost Darren, we all wish you well with your surgery in regards to the attempt to resolve your Ulcerative Colitis. Rather than just relieve your symptoms, hopefully this is a procedure that can correct your chronic illness. If the happiest ultimate outcome is this, along with a return to the football pitch, so be it.

During Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's weekly press conference ahead of Sunday's match with Tottenham Hotspur, he had to this to say about Darren Fletcher's surgery:

"It was something we thought would happen anyway. He tried his best to cope with the condition with the treatments he was using but, in the last couple of weeks, it's come back. This operation will hopefully solve the situation and we expect him to be back in July. It's a blow for the boy but given he's been dealing with the condition for a few years, it's just another step for him. He has fantastic character, he's a brilliant boy. He'll do his best, no doubt about that. He always does."

- Ferguson | Source: ManUtd.com

Quite obviously, it's nice to hear the gaffer talking about a return for Fletch and he even specifically mentions July as a return date. It's probably best to be cautious in regards to expectations about a return though. If the Scotland international does return, Fergie envisions his future as a holding-midfielder:

"He had to change his game and he hasn't been the Darren Fletcher of three or four years ago in the games this season. Instead, he was sitting in front of the back four and he did well. That could be his role in the future. When he comes back, and I hope he does, it will be in a different role."

- Fletcher

At his peak, Fletcher was an energetic box-to-box midfielder that used mobility and determination to screen and offer protection for more technical players such as Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick. On a consistent basis, Ferguson picked him for big games because of his grit. This season, though, on the limited occasions that Fletcher was able to feature, it was generally in a more conservative holding-midfield role. As the manager just described, it was in a deep-role where he calmly shielded the back four -- whether that be in a three-man midfield or as the base of a diamond. He clearly didn't have the mobility of his peak past but his tidy distribution and positional awareness made him a useful player in the games he was selected for -- even if they did tend to be for domestic cup ties or the more unimportant UEFA Champions League group-stage ties.

We will wish you well Fletch. Get better. We hope your biggest struggle next season isn't a health one, but rather it be you trying to fight your way back into the squad. A vociferous ovation awaits you at Old Trafford if you can make your way back onto the pitch.

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