The importance of Fletcher
Sir Alex Ferguson is confident that Darren Fletcher, the Manchester United midfielder, will return from illness in time to boost his side's bid for Premier League and Champions League success.
Fletcher has not featured for United since the 3-1 loss to Liverpool at Anfield on March 6 due to a stomach virus that has caused the Scotland international to lose a significant amount of weight.
However, Fletcher has resumed training and is slowly gathering his strength and that could not come at a better time for a United side still chasing success on two fronts. "Darren Fletcher is back training now, he's done a good week. I think maybe he will be available in 10 days," Ferguson said yesterday.
"Darren is a very, very important player to come back. In big games, important games, Darren has excelled over the years because he has the knowledge and discipline to carry out a job whatever I want him to do.
"That's the value he brings to the team. When he does come back, he will go straight into the team."
United face the Everton side of David Moyes in the early kick off (3.45pm) at Old Trafford today and Ferguson acknowledged that the leaders will not find it easy against the Merseyside outfit.
After a poor start to the season, Everton have been one of the Premier League's form teams over the past three months and have moved to seventh in the division despite a host of injuries to key players.
Ferguson said: "Everton have done exceptionally well considering David has had a mountain of injuries in the last few weeks.
"He has been without Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta, Louis Saha and Marouane Fellaini but still turning out the results.
"He still gets them motivated. They all try. He's bringing some young players, too. He's freshened his team up. He's done a fantastic job. They are never easy games against Everton because it's a local derby in a way.
"But our home record has been fantastic this season, really good. Performances level are fantastic and hopefully we can continue against Everton."
If United beat Everton, they will take another huge step toward regaining the Premier League title from Chelsea, although the London side's recent resurgence has seen them move within six points of the leaders.
Petr Cech, the Chelsea goalkeeper, spoke earlier this week about his side's desire to catch United and with confidence returning at Stamford Bridge, that is eminently possible.
Rather than be daunted by that, Ferguson claimed he is pleased that United have a direct competitor during the run-in, saying it helps to focus his squad.
But he is confident United can use their experience to close out the season and deny Chelsea a second successive Premier League title.
"You have to recognise who is behind you. You can't become complacent," Ferguson said.
"It's good to know somebody is behind you, in that sense we use our experience of years past in situations like this and hopefully get what we want.
"If we win against Everton, we have only four games left and a minimum of six points lead.
"That's the way to look at it. You run out of games, eventually. I'm not looking beyond Saturday."
Published: April 23, 2011 04:00 AM