Darren Fletcher interview: Roy Keane made me the player I am today
Darren Fletcher says he is indebted to Manchester United legend Roy Keane for turning him into the player he is with his infamous MUTV rant.
Keane's illustrous United career came to an abrupt end in 2005 when he savaged the club's younger players - including Fletcher - in an interview the club deemed too brutal to air.
"I can't understand why people in Scotland rave about Darren Fletcher," Keane said, as he tore into Sir Alex Ferguson's emerging stars for their lack of talent and application.
Five years on, however, and even Keane would be forced to revise his view, with Fletcher having developed into arguably the former United skipper's natural successor.
Gone are the days when United fans used to ridicule Fletcher as 'Fergie's son, the inference being he was only at Old Trafford because of his shared nationality with the boss.
Indeed, such has been Fletcher's progress his suspension from last season's Champions League final was cited as a major resaon why United surrendered so meekly to Barcelona.
Thankfully for United, Fletcher is available for tomorrow's Carling Cup final and will play a pivotal role at Wembley as Fergie's men look to successfully defend the Carling Cup.
And ahead of the showdown with Aston Villa, Fletcher paid tribute to Keane for instilling in him the high standards and disciplined approach which has seen him fulfil his potential.
"I think I'm the professional I am now because of Roy," said Fletcher. "He made clear the standards expected of a Manchester United player.
"He drilled that into you and I think that's the thing that stayed with me. If you didn't do something right, Roy would criticize you. Iif you did, he'd praise you.
"People never saw the praise side of things because it came quietly – a word in your ear."
Fergie has hailed Fletcher as a "big-game" player and the 26-year-old said he has developed the unique mental strength needed to play for the world's biggest club.
"I'm of the opinion that, in the big games especially, sometimes it's more psychological than about actual ability," said Fletcher.
"I'm a great believer in that. A big percentage of the game is played in your head and how you deal with the big occasions. I just relish that challenge.
"The biggest part of being at this club is how you handle it mentally. I'm one of those who wasn't going to hide away if I got criticised, or shirk my responsibility.
"You're constantly being challenged at United. I want to be here for the rest of my career and leave some mark on the club."
Fletcher admitted United will need to produce their best form against Villa if they are to overcome them to land the first trophy of the season.
Having already lost 1-0 to Villa at Old Trafford this season and been held 1-1 at Villa Park. Fletcher acknowledged United will be up against it at Wembley.
"We lost against Villa in the league at Old Trafford and drew at their place this month so we know they're a very tough team," said Fletcher.
"They're a proper British-style team, they're in your face, they close you down and they work ever so hard.
"They have so much pace and quality on the counter-attack that it’s something we'll have to be wary of."
Fergie agreed with Fletcher's assessment of Villa. "We recognise very seriously the challenge from Villa," said the United boss.
"You think about the team Martin O'Neill inherited and the team he's got now, it's totally different.
"He's brought a consistency to them and doesn't make too many changes. This could be a successful season for them.
"They're in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and the Carling Cup final against us, so we know it's going to be a difficult game." EN