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Fletcher set to miss out again

Darren Fletcher is set to miss the Champions League final for a third time despite recovering from a virus.

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Fletcher was sidelined for seven weeks with a debilitating virus and, despite returning to action this month, is expected to be left out of Sir Alex Ferguson's starting XI for Saturday's clash with Barcelona at Wembley.

Fletcher was an unused substitute for United's 2008 win over Chelsea in Moscow, and was suspended for their defeat to Barcelona in Rome the following year.

He started United's win over Blackpool on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday, but Ferguson is expected to opt for Michael Carrick in central midfield.

"It's not for me to decide," Fletcher said. "All you can do is your best. The lads who have got us there have done really well, so the manager has a lot of decisions to make."

United assistant manager Mike Phelan added: "Darren has had a difficult time. Darren Fletcher, up and running and firing on all cylinders, gives us a hard job of picking the team. But it's never easy to come back when you've been out for so long."

Cesc Fabregas feels Manchester United should start with Fletcher.

"Manchester United will play against Barca as they did against Arsenal, with three men in midfield that guarantee soundness," Fabregas told El Mundo Deportivo. "Fletcher joins the team when Ferguson has opted for a midfield three.

"There's also Anderson but I do not think he will play at Wembley. Fletcher is the only player in the United team who can do a man-marking job on Iniesta and Xavi."

Fabregas believes how Barcelona cope with the aerial threat posed by United will play a key role in the outcome of the final.

"Ferguson is aware of the physical superiority of his team and knows that United's best chances may be from mistakes and corners," Fabregas, a product of the Barcelona academy, said. "This strategy is the key in the finals.

"A dead ball for [Nemanja] Vidic is dangerous. Rio Ferdinand does not go up all the time, but I think in the end he will when it matters. United are extremely combative."

Carrick, meanwhile, has hit out at his critics who claim he is not good enough to play for United, saying the team's results speak for themselves since his arrival at Old Trafford in 2006.

"When people have said I've not been good enough for United's midfield, sometimes I do wonder what is good enough for them," Carrick told the Daily Mirror.

"I've had a fantastic time here after winning four titles in five years and three Champions League finals, and of course I'm maybe frustrated at times, because it's winning trophies that sets teams and players apart, and we've done that.

"But then I can catch myself and say, 'Why the hell are you worrying about it?' It's there for people to see, and if they can't, so what?

"You hope that people realise you must be doing something right to achieve what we have competing against the best teams in the world, but if not, then does that matter? The only thing that matters in the next trophy."


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