Darren Fletcher 'lied' about illness
Darren Fletcher has admitted he lied to his Manchester United teammates as he battled career-threatening ulcerative colitis.
The midfielder Fletcher has revealed that his career-threatening bowel condition was so serious he ended up in hospital on an IV drip.
And the Scotland captain said he struggled to tell his teammates about his health problems, revealing that former manager Sir Alex Ferguson was the only person at Old Trafford who knew.
The 30-year-old rarely played between March 2011 and December 2013 but has made eight appearances in the last two months and believes that, after undergoing surgery, he has finally recovered.
But he admitted to national newspapers at the launch of the United for Colitis charity: "I was embarrassed about it. I was scared. It is an inflammatory bowel disease which is not easy to talk about.
"You can be running to the toilet anywhere between 10 and 30 times a day without much time to get there, losing a lot of blood in the process as well.
"At times, my blood inflammation markers were so high and I was so weak that I ended up in hospital a couple of times on an IV drip."
Fletcher admitted he did not take the illness seriously enough at first.
He added: "I remember when I was first diagnosed, being very blasé about it. Looking back now, that was quite immature, but I was a professional footballer, playing in the Premier League for Manchester United, and felt on top of the world, felt untouchable.
"At first my symptoms were very small it didn’t have any real impact on my life or career. It wasn’t until it came back, in 2010, that I started my real battle with ulcerative colitis, which, ultimately, I’ve had to undergo surgical procedures to be sitting here today and to continue my career.
"My close family and friends knew, and I didn’t hide it from the manager, but nobody else knew at the club.
"I stayed silent, but I found it very difficult making up stories for reasons why I wasn’t at training, why I was looking ill, why I was rushing off to the bathroom. I was basically lying to people’s faces."
Fletcher spoke passionately about his own fight back to the highest level of the game and his eagerness to ensure United bounce back in equally feisty fashion.
"I don't want to settle for mediocrity, to settle for just being happy," stated Fletcher. "That is a dangerous mindset to get into and even though I would probably have every right to do that after what has happened to me, I don't want to.
"I still want to push myself because I realise that there is nothing stopping me now. I want success for this club. I want to help achieve things with this club. I am hurting just as much as everyone else at present.
"I am not just happy to be back. That is not enough for me. There is a real determination around the place and it is no different for me.
"When people ask me if I am more appreciative of my job I always say 'no'. I always realised how fortunate I was to be a professional footballer and play for Manchester United.
"I know how hard I worked to get here and I am not willing to let that go away quickly."
Fletcher suggests the current troubles afflicting United are not new to the club, with their ability to defy their critics one of the reasons why they enjoyed so much success during the Ferguson years.
"I have been through situations of not having success and being written off," he added. "I'm telling the younger ones that we have been here before. You have to keep that belief inside yourself and use it as a fuel to prove them wrong. That is what I tried to do.
"You are always proving yourself at Manchester United, whether it be in the team, becoming more experienced, coming back from illness.
"That is the challenge of playing for this club. It is about reiterating to the younger players that they have to believe in themselves, work extra hard, keep digging in and their quality will come through."
Reigning champions United are currently seventh in the Premier League, 15 points behind leaders Arsenal and seven adrift of the top four. United are also out of both domestic cup competitions.