Sport

Premier League debut at 15? Only rules stopped Darren Fletcher making Manchester United history

By Dean Wilkins

If rules could be broken Darren Fletcher would have become Manchester United’s youngest-ever player, as Sir Alex Ferguson revealed he wanted to give him a run out aged just 15.

The 28-year-old midfielder has battled his way back from a chronic bowel disease to cement his place firmly in Sir Alex’s season plans – reclaiming his place alongside Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Paul Scholes and Anderson in the middle of the park.

But as the Scotsman discussed his favourite moments at Villa Park – as the Reds prepare for their Premier League visit on Saturday – he revealed that he wanted to give Fletcher his debut there 12 years ago.

“We went there in the last game of the season in 1999/2000 needing four goals to reach 100,” Fergie said. “Teddy Sheringham scored in the second half to put us on 97 but we missed countless chances so the century eluded us.

“I was close to giving a young Darren Fletcher his debut that day – he was 15 – but the rules didn’t allow me to.”

Fletched was forced to wait two years until signing a professional training contract to land his United debut and avoiding his role as David Beckham’s understudy to move in field.

United face Aston Villa on the back of securing Champions League qualification as group winners, and will be hoping to extend their Premier League over chasers Chelsea and Manchester City.

Sir Alex looked back fondly on journeys to Villa Park – in previous visits they secured a famous FA Cup semi-final replay victory over bitter rivals Arsenal in 1999 and repeated the feat in 2004 – as he prepares to lead his men out this weekend.

“I think some of our performances have been terrific there,” he told the club’s official website. “There are a couple of memories – when we were 2-0 down in the FA Cup in 2002. Ruud van Nistelrooy scored two goals, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got the other, as we came back to beat Villa 3-2.”

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