Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

I already paid the penalty last year, insists Fletcher

He thought he got the ball, but if not, Darren Fletcher makes no apology for getting away with his challenge on Andrey Arshavin at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Fletcher must live forever with the red card he picked up at the Emirates Stadium in May which stopped him appearing in the Champions League final.

The Scot has taken his disappointment manfully, refusing to be crushed by such a blow.

But after suffering such a setback, he is not going to start worrying about the ones he gets away with.

“I went for the challenge and felt I got the ball,” Fletcher said.

“Maybe I am due a bit of luck after what happened in the Champions League semi-final last season. These things happen in football.”

Fletcher rather gave the game away by admitting his immediate reaction was one of panic.

The midfielder presented the ball straight back to Arsenal, allowing Arshavin to let fly with a powerful shot that should not have ended up in the back of Ben Foster's net.

It was just about the only thing Fletcher did wrong in a performance that confirmed his growing reputation as one of the most influential midfield players in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger was probably singling out the Dalkeith-born star when he declared “someone had committed 20 fouls and didn't even get booked,” but the fact remains when United needed solidity in their midfield, Fletcher provided it. When they required drive, they got that too.

“I enjoy the challenge of playing against Arsenal,” he said. “I did my usual thing. I got about people and tried to raise the tempo of the game.

“I put tackles in and tried to get the guys playing a little bit. It is no different to what I do in other games but it sometimes gets noticed more in big games.”

Fletcher is certainly getting noticed more, with many believing his absence in Rome was responsible for United being completely overrun by Barcelona's magnificent Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

Certainly, there was little time for Arsenal to get themselves on the ball, even if Arshavin made the most of space he found so regularly before half-time, after which he faded dramatically.

Fletcher will continue to stress the need for a sensible approach, questioning why United went four-against-four in attack at the end, risking victory in a desire for more goals, only an offside flag denying Robin van Persie right at the death.

“We got carried away with the fans and the emotion,” he said.

“We were winning the game but we were lucky because we nearly threw it away.”

However, the voice of reason is also backing Wayne Rooney to ensure a belated transition from Cristiano Ronaldo as penalty taker after the hiccup of a miss by Michael Carrick at Burnley.

“Wayne grabbed the ball and scored so hopefully he will go on a run taking them now,” he said.

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