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Fletcher faces up to his past

Published: Wednesday 13 September 2006, 1.01CET
Manchester United FC midfielder Darren Fletcher is looking forward to playing his boyhood heroes Celtic FC in the two sides' first competitive meeting.
by Alex O'Henley
from Glasgow

Tournament statistics

Man. UnitedCeltic

Goals scored23
 
8
Attempts on target81
 
33
Attempts off target73
 
24
Corners57
 
27
Offsides31
 
21
Fouls committed202
 
126
Yellow cards22
 
17
Red cards1
 
0
 
Published: Wednesday 13 September 2006, 1.01CET

Fletcher faces up to his past

Manchester United FC midfielder Darren Fletcher is looking forward to playing his boyhood heroes Celtic FC in the two sides' first competitive meeting.

Manchester United FC midfielder Darren Fletcher is looking forward to playing against his boyhood heroes Celtic FC when the two sides meet at Old Trafford on Wednesday in their first UEFA Champions League Group F fixture. Although both clubs know each other well from numerous testimonial and friendly matches over the years this is the first time they have played each other in a competitive fixture and Fletcher knows the atmosphere will be completely different tonight.

Boyhood side
"The Celtic games will be great to play in because of the Scotland, England rivalry and also because they were the team I followed as a boy," Fletcher told uefa.com. "We played them in pre-season and won quite comfortably at Celtic Park but the games will be nothing like that when it comes to the UEFA Champions League - it will be all about the three points. It would be great if both clubs made it through to the knockout stages, but first and foremost I have to look after myself and make sure United progress."

Critics silenced
The 22-year-old Edinburgh-born midfielder has made a good start to the season scoring for both club and country answering the critics who felt he would not be able to hold down a first-team place at Old Trafford following the capture of Michael Carrick from Tottenham Hotpsur FC. Far from feeling threatened by the arrival of the England midfielder, Fletcher claims Carrick's presence has given him the freedom to push forward and play in a more attacking role.

New freedom
"Usually I was the one who was asked to be a holding midfielder and that's not really my natural game," he said. "But now with Michael coming in he likes to sit in and that's given me an opportunity to push forward and get into the box. It's been a good start to the season for me personally, but I've got to keep performing to keep my place in the team because we have a lot of talented players."

Unhappy ending
Like the rest of his United team-mates, Fletcher is desperate to make up for last season's disappointing UEFA Champions League campaign when they finished bottom of a group that included Villarreal CF, SL Benfica and LOSC Lille Métropole. Even without the services of top goalscorer Ruud Van Nistelrooij - now with Real Madrid CF - Fletcher is convinced United have enough quality in their ranks to mount a serious challenge on both domestic and European fronts this term.

'Both fronts'
"United are expected to compete for the title and do well in Europe every year and after last season we have to improve on both fronts, "said Fletcher. "We can't allow Chelsea [FC] to get too far ahead of us in the league and after a disappointing UEFA Champions League campaign last year we have to reach the latter stages this season.

Stylistic adjustment
"Obviously, any team is going to miss a world class striker like Ruud but maybe we've got a different style of play now, a little bit more direct, getting in behind defences using the pace of Louis [Saha] and that seems to be working," he added. "If we can keep Louis fit alongside Wayne Rooney for most of the season we should be in contention on all fronts."

Last updated: 13/09/06 23.02CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2006/matches/round=2357/match=1116324/prematch/focus/index.html#fletcher+faces+past

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