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Fletcher returns in United under-21s game

ESPN staff
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Darren Fletcher took part in Manchester United training last week © Getty Images
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Darren Fletcher has targeted a place in Manchester United's first team after returning to competitive action in an under-21s game following a 10-month spell on the sidelines.

Fletcher, 29, played 67 minutes as an overage player in a 2-2 draw against Fulham, having last appeared for the first team on Boxing Day 2012 before undergoing surgery in January.

He has played only 13 matches since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition, in December 2011.

However after returning to training last week, Fletcher was cleared to resume playing. And now he is hoping to feature in David Moyes' first-team plans.

"It's been a long time so it's good to get back tonight," Fletcher told MUTV. "I've been training for a few weeks now and the next progression is to get some match-time. I enjoyed it.

"The plan was to get to half-time and see how I felt. Then get to 60 minutes and take it from there and, although I felt I could have gone on a bit longer, the plan was not to play more than that so I'm better sticking to the plan and not upsetting the sports science lads.

"They've been great, especially the doc Steve McNally. He's worked closely with me, getting myself right and back and the support from the club has been fantastic - from Sir Alex Ferguson to the new manager and David Gill. Everyone at the club. I couldn't ask for anything better.

"It's been tough. Luckily, I've got a great family around me - my wife, children, mum, dad and sisters. It's a great family and, if it was not for them, I wouldn't be standing here today. They keep me going, keep me motivated and lift me when I'm down. All these factors contributed to me standing here today on the road to recovery.

"It's always frustrating to watch from the sidelines whether you're winning or losing. I just want to be out there to help and do my best. The aim is to be back in the manager's plans and help on the pitch.

"We've a great squad, great manager and great staff. Manchester United are always strong. Although we've not started as well as we'd have liked, it was a very tough start, and I still expect us to kick on in the next few weeks.

"[David Moyes] has kept liaising with the doctor, speaking to me regularly, even though he's got an important job working with the first team. He's given me the time I need and has been great support. I couldn't ask for any more.

"[A return is a] question for David Moyes. I'm going to hopefully have a few more under-21 games and finish 90 minutes before trying to work my way into the squad."

Fulham led 2-0 through goals from Moussa Dembele and Muamer Tankovic, before an own goal by Stephen Arthurworrey reduced the deficit. Michael Keane then struck an 87th-minute equaliser.

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