Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Ferguson praises midfield star Fletcher

Sir Alex Ferguson admits Darren Fletcher's success as a ball-winner can get up the noses of rival managers but has backed his midfielder as one of the fairest players in football.

Arsene Wenger appeared to target Fletcher after Arsenal's defeat at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, talking of one Manchester United player being "anti-football" and committing 20 fouls without being booked.

Ferguson believes Wenger and Arsenal were merely frustrated by a player who relishes the job of taking the fight to the opposition - especially if that opposition is the Gunners.

The United manager said: "Darren Fletcher is one of the most honest and fairest players in the game.

"Because he wins the ball and he does it fairly, that's what has probably annoyed them. But that's his job - that's what he's good at.

"He's marvellous at pressing the ball, his energy is incredible"

"The other thing about Darren Fletcher he always seems to be man of the match against Arsenal. They seem to be the club that Darren seems to star against all the time."

Ferguson will need Fletcher at his annoying best tomorrow when United travel to Harry Redknapp's Tottenham, early-season pace-setters with four wins out of four and a side that Ferguson believes can finally break the stranglehold of the big four.

The United manager picked out Redknapp's signing of Honduran midfielder Wilson Palacios from Wigan as being key to Spurs' improvement.

"They have a realistic chance of breaking into the top four," said Ferguson.

"They and Man City have had good starts and those two are ahead of the rest of them at the moment. Everton have had a stuttering start but they will come back and be a strong contender and Aston Villa as well.

"Harry has brought in a few of his own type of players like (Peter) Crouch, (Jermain) Defoe and (Niko) Kranjcar from Portsmouth.

"He bought Palacios from Wigan and I thought that was a good signing to bring that steel into midfield. They have really started well and there's a good degree of experience in the squad."

Rio Ferdinand could be contention for his first competitive match for United this season - he has been back in training this week after a thigh injury. Gary Neville could also figure too after proving his fitness in a reserve match last week.

Antonio Valencia may start on the bench as the Ecuador winger has had a long journey back from international duty in Bolivia, where he scored in a 3-1 win to give his country a good chance of qualifying for the World Cup.

"Valencia was playing in Bolivia so he'll probably arrive back in November!" said Ferguson. "Just think of a player playing a game in Bolivia on a Thursday morning and expected to be playing at Tottenham on a Saturday, but that's what happens now."

John O'Shea looks certain to be missing tomorrow after suffering a calf injury on duty with the Republic of Ireland, while goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar's broken thumb will keep him out for another month.

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