At a time when his club’s midfield woes have seriously undermined their chances of Europa League qualification, let alone retaining the Premier League title, Darren Fletcher’s gradual return to fitness may provide Manchester United with a little extra steel which they have been missing in recent months.
However, Scotland boss Gordon Strachan is the most likely beneficiary of Fletcher’s return, especially after being given such a tough draw in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Trying to vie for a top-three finish in Group E with Germany, the Republic of Ireland and Poland is going to be tricky, so having a proven Premier League performer to choose could give Strachan cause for optimism.
Since taking over, Strachan has chosen to give the captain’s armband, once property of Fletcher, to the combustible yet capable Scott Brown. While Brown can usually be called upon to put a shift in against Europe’s finest, like he has done on occasion for Celtic in the Champions League, Fletcher would be a more sensible choice of captain, given his greater experience on the big stage.
Nevertheless, this is a dilemma which could cause Strachan serious headaches, particularly if the United ace manages to keep his recent health problems at bay for the foreseeable future. Fletcher is one of a handful of English Premier League stars who have their sights set on keeping hold of a starting berth in Strachan’s squad by the time the first qualifier comes around in September.
South of the border
In goal, Hull’s Allan McGregor and Cardiff’s David Marshall are vying for the role of first choice keeper. Going on recent form, McGregor has the edge, although Marshall has proven himself to be surprisingly reliable. Elsewhere on the pitch, Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher is our most likely source of goals, although Ross McCormack of second-tier Leeds United may be a useful back-up.
Scottish stars have been fixtures in many great English teams in years gone by. When asking how well do you know your team, some of the answers may be related to Scottish greats such as Charlie George and Denis Law, although modern internationals aren’t in the same league. Ladbrokes recently created a quiz, where many Scots past and present feature in some of the questions.