At 30 years old and having spent the best part of three years battling a chronic illness, it would not take long to believe that the best of Darren Fletcher's career was past him.
Combining the detrimental effect that the basics of a partial three year absence can have on the body, with the terrible illness that caused weight loss and a lack of physical strength can have on the body, many believed his day was over.
Slowly but surely however, it looks as though this episode in his career is gone, and his performance in Saturday's demolition against Newcastle highlighting what a great player he is.
For many years now, Manchester United's midfield has come under constant criticism, with a lack of fresh legs, or talented legs at that. No major signings since 2007 (prior to the much maligned capture of Marouane Fellaini) in the engine room has become a problem for United, with the U-turn from Paul Scholes over his retirement making it abundantly clear that all was not well.
Prior to the colitis virus hitting him, he was United's go-to man for all the big fixtures, stemming from his match winning display versus Chelsea at Old Trafford in 2005. His dismissal in the Champions League semi-final at Arsenal in the second-leg that would rule him out of the final in Rome was a massive blow for United.
It was felt that Fletcher would've been perfect to hassle the unique but superb triumvirate of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquests of Barcelona. His absence meant the job was left to Anderson and Michael Carrick, and we all know the outcome of this.
It was with great delight when Fletcher made his return this season in the away fixture at Aston Villa. His arrival as a sub for Adnan Januzaj on the 70th minute mark prompted applause from both sets of fans; highlighting his standing amongst both peers and your everyday fan, who understand the difficult path that his illness has led him down.
Just to see him back on the pitch has brought joy amongst not just United fans, but other colitis sufferers across the country.
Even though he made his comeback pre-Christmas, his appearances in the first-team have become sporadic. This could be a case of not pushing too much too soon, which is completely understandable. However, in a midfield which clearly is lacking some energy and presence, Fletcher would hopefully be knocking on the door for games.
The former go-to man has not played in any of the big games since that absence, most notably the drubbings versus Liverpool and Manchester City. Instead, he has had to contend with appearances in the least important fixtures, with recent appearances against West Ham United, Aston Villa and most recently against Newcastle. It is these fixtures though, that United and Fletcher have shone.
These games have allowed Fletcher to demonstrate his importance to this team. His boundless energy, and top-notch reading of the game is perfect for a team in United's position, while his distribution, short range, is up there with Carrick's.
His performance against Newcastle was classic Fletcher, completing 71 out of 74 passes and four interceptions throughout proceedings. David Moyes paid tribute to Fletcher's performance, saying he was "excellent in midfield".
With big games coming up to define United's season, Fletcher can surely once more become United's go-to man in the middle of the park. Bayern Munich on Wednesday will not look forward to having someone nibbling away at all their short passing play, and United need someone to set the tempo in their own play.
This being said, Fletcher is not the future at Old Trafford, and reinforcements appear to be following shortly. The likes of Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan and William Carvalho have all been mentioned as potential summer signings, but given Fletcher's quality, his presence and his influence on the team, can once more become our go-to man.
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