It has taken some time - and Arsene Wenger may not agree - but the wider football world has finally woken up to the talents of Darren Fletcher. So often derided as Sir Alex Ferguson's token Scot during his formative years at Manchester United, Fletcher is suddenly viewed as a key component of the side. His absence from last season's Champions League final was cited as one of the major reasons why Ferguson's men failed to make any impact on Barcelona in Rome. And, although Wayne Rooney
hogged the headlines on Wednesday evening with the injury-time goal that secured a Manchester derby triumph and a Carling Cup final appearance, it was Fletcher who received the man-of-the-match award. Ferguson does not view him as "anti-football", as he was described by Wenger. To the United boss, Fletcher is the energy that keeps his team going. "I don't think Darren is destructive," he argued. "He is competitive. "There are not many players who run off the ball as well as him in the game. "His movement, energy and commitment are fantastic. It is a wonderful to see a player achieving the level of endurance Darren can put into a match." In fact, Ferguson can see a lot of comparisons with another under-rated Scot who was an integral member of his United revolution and is still very much part of the Reds fabric in his role as academy director. McClair comparisons "Darren reminds me of Brian McClair," said Ferguson. "He was exactly the same. When the ball moved he moved. "He was a fantastic player for us in that way and Darren is in the same mould because he must run more than anyone. "His energy and awareness of space are excellent." Ferguson backs up his view of Fletcher by naming the 25-year-old in his starting line-up for virtually all United's high-profile games. Even though he covered the miles in midweek, it would be a surprise if the Dalkeith-born star was not called upon at the Emirates on Sunday. "There are not many big games Darren has not played in over the years," said the United boss. "We have been saying how good he is for a while. Maybe it has taken longer for the fans to appreciate the qualities the boy has. "There is nothing you can do about that. He is not a stylish player by any manner of means. He is ungainly and gangly. "But he is a fantastic player." Fletcher has successfully overcome the terrace doubters, showing immense strength of character in the process. However, in Ferguson's eyes, more important was his recovery from a major ankle injury right at the start of his career. "When he was a young lad of 16 he was out of the game for two years with ankle problems," he recalled. "It is not easy when you miss your formative years as an academy player here. "But he has come through that to the level he is at now. That is the character he has shown." What do you make of Fletcher's development? Have your say.