Fletcher career in balance
Darren Fletcher's career is hanging in the balance after Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed the Manchester United midfielder has still to launch a comeback from his chronic bowel complaint.
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After months of struggle to combat a mystery virus, United eventually came clean over the extent of Fletcher's problem in December.
At the time, Scotland manager Craig Levein expressed hope his skipper would be fit to lead his country into their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign.
However, that is not going to happen, with Ferguson revealing that the 28-year-old has not even attempted a return to training yet.
United have already been forced to reject one claim on a social media site earlier this year that the Dalkeith-born player was about to announce his retirement.
But, whilst he continued to express hope for his fellow countryman, there was little in Ferguson's assessment of the situation that suggested Fletcher could win his fitness fight.
"Darren has not started training with us," he said.
"Obviously he has got challenges and we are happy to be patient with him. But he won't be starting the season.
"It is unfortunate because he is such a magnificent professional and such a nice lad.
"If it doesn't work for him he knows he has a position at the club."
Fletcher spent the second half of last season doing some of the coaching duties that had been assigned to Paul Scholes until he performed a retirement U-turn mid-way through the campaign.
Always one of the more studious members of the United squad, Fletcher does seem the type who would slot into a backroom role fairly comfortably once he has completed his coaching badges, which he has already started.
However, if he is forced to call time on his career, it would be a cruel way to end it.
Fletcher was restricted to just 10 appearances last term, his last coming against Benfica at Old Trafford in November.
He turned out just twice in the final weeks of the previous campaign, when the illness first took hold, costing him a chance of finally appearing in a Champions League final after he was overlooked for the 2008 triumph over Chelsea in Moscow and then suspended the following year, when United lost to Barcelona.