Darren Fletcher has won the most important battle of his life and now he is aiming to restore Manchester United to their long-held position as England’s top club.
The Dalkeith-born 29-year-old returned after almost 12 months out of action in Sunday’s 3-0 win at Aston Villa.
Fletcher has struggled for virtually three years with ulcerative colitis, a condition that proved so serious it eventually required three lots of surgery.
Now recovered, the midfielder is eager to rejoin the fray after being helpless to prevent an awful start to David Moyes’ reign which, prior to last weekend, had seen United slump to ninth spot in the Premier League.
“It is hard enough watching the lads win,” the Scotland international said. “At least if they do that you enjoy the moments. It is a lot more difficult when we are not.
“We need to go on a winning run and put ourselves in a position where people are saying we are still there. I want to help us win matches.”
Fletcher, right, is in contention to play some part in tomorrow’s Capital One Cup quarter-final at Stoke, declaring: “I don’t want to take it easy. I’ve done enough of that.”
Certainly if United’s squad show as much character as Fletcher has needed in recent months, they will be fine. The former national team captain knew it was not just his football career that was on the line if surgery did not prove successful, but his entire life would have been affected.
“I couldn’t leave the house,” he said. “Simple stuff, like taking my kids to the park, going for a meal with my wife. The nature of the illness meant I just couldn’t do it.
“There was the exhaustion side as well. I always believed one of the medications would work. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. That was the reason I went for the operation.”
Although Fletcher’s surgeon was confident surgery would prove successful, the consequences of failure were laid bare.
In the prime of a career that had already brought him four Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a couple of League Cups, it was a bleak prospect.
“There was a day in May when we said ‘This is it’. Once I came out of that operation I would know whether it had worked or not.
“There were no guarantees. If the operation was not a success, there was no way I would be able to play football and my everyday life would have been very difficult.”