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By ESPN Staff

United ready for Rome, says suspended Fletcher

Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has backed the rest of the club's senior stars to go on and win the Champions League without him.

Fletcher must sit out Wednesday's showpiece final against Barcelona in Rome through suspension after his sending-off in the semi-final against Arsenal.

The Scotland international concluded his United duties for the season by lending his experience to an under-strength side in yesterday's final Barclays Premier League fixture at Hull.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson made 10 changes to his team to rest his biggest stars, retaining only Fletcher from the side that clinched the title against Arsenal last week.

The unfamiliar team, with an average age of only 23, still proved too strong for Hull, winning 1-0 with a stunning strike from Darron Gibson.

Fletcher, 25, said: "I think it's good to be going into the Champions League final with a bit of rest, it's been a long season.

"It would have been difficult if we'd been trying to win the league here, we knew it would be a tough, physical match.

"With two days' rest, to go and play Barcelona in the final would have been difficult, but fortunately we won the league early, with a game to spare.

"The lads have rested up and hopefully they'll be ready to go against Barcelona."

Fletcher can now only watch as United bid to retain the European crown they won in Moscow 12 months ago.

He admits the clash of the champions of England and Spain, renowned for their flair, could make for a great occasion but he is concerned only with victory.

He added: "I will travel, I'll travel as a fan. I'll be like all the rest of the United fans, cheering the lads on, hoping we win the trophy.

"Two great attacking teams known for their qualities of attacking, probably two of the best sides in Europe this season, both winning their domestic leagues.

"It sets it up nicely for what should be a fantastic final but we'll take any sort of victory."

Much was made of United's likely line-up before the game at the KC Stadium given the importance of the match to Hull.

Hull needed to win to guarantee safety in the Premier League but any complaints United's line-up might have handed the Tigers an advantage over their relegation rivals were rendered irrelevant by the result.

Gibson struck midway through the first half with a stunning strike from outside the area and United could have won by more, but Hull survived anyway.

Fletcher added: "There are a lot of young players here with a lot to prove and they don't get many chances.

"It was a great Manchester United squad and whenever they do get the chance it is important they go out and take it.

"I thought most of them did that, it was a good result."

One notable absentee from the United side was Rio Ferdinand, who had been hoping for a run-out after overcoming a calf injury.

His fitness ahead of the Champions League final will now be assessed over the next two days.


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