Darren Fletcher has warned Manchester United’s crop of youngsters to forget about thinking they have made it until they’ve won the Premier League title a couple of times.
Former United midfielder Fletcher, who won the Champions League and four Premier League titles at Old Trafford, has told Marcus Rashford and co. to forget about fast cars and suggestions they have made the grade at until they have won multiple titles.
Louis van Gaal has turned to the likes of Rashford, Guillermo Varela and Timothy Fosu-Mensah in recent weeks having seen his first-team ranks ravaged by injury and they have helped breathe life into United’s season.
There has long been a tradition of promoting from the academy at Old Trafford and Fletcher, who left for West Brom last year, is one of the most successful graduates since the much-vaunted Class of ’92.
And Fletcher’s advice for those who have broken through at United this term is that they have a way to go yet before they can be considered alongside the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham.
“There are challenges that still lie ahead for those young players to prove, but keep it going just now,” the Scot said.
“I would say to them keep working hard and don’t think you’ve made it just yet. You’ve made it when you’ve won two or three Premier Leagues and you’ve played for four or five seasons – that is when you can buy your Bentley or your super car. That is when you have made it.”
Fletcher is well-placed to speak about the demands of life at Old Trafford having played 342 times for United and experiencing the trophy-laden years of Sir Alex Ferguson and then the tricky handover of David Moyes’ reign before Van Gaal came in.
The Dutchman moved the 32-year-old midfielder on six months after joining the club, although the player insists there is only respect for Van Gaal rather than resentment, and the Baggies captain has thrived since moving to the midlands.
Ex-Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Holland boss Van Gaal cannot point to a similar period of success and his position has been under the microscope for much of the campaign.
“The scrutiny is there at Manchester United – I experienced that under Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, that’s just what it is at that club,” Fletcher added.
“The club’s expected to win titles, challenging for the top four is not what the fans want, it’s not good enough for Manchester United. That’s the challenge that he’s facing and I think he’s realised that now. The form’s picked up dramatically the last few weeks and the young lads have come in and done fantastically.
“They’ve found themselves in a position now where the top four is a realistic possibility and the title’s not out of the question. I’m not saying they’re going to win the league but they are thereabouts now and if anybody can put a run together they’re probably going to go on and do it.
“(Van Gaal) is a fantastic coach, he’s proved that. I think the Premier League has been a very difficult challenge for him, I think he’ll be the first to admit that he’s found it a lot more difficult than he expected. I think people look at the Premier League and are maybe a little bit naive to the tactical element of it.”
While the burden of expectation at Old Trafford is obvious, Fletcher has found that life at the other end of the table has been even more intense.
“I found more pressure last season staying in the league,” he said.
“Going for a title is a buzz and there’s that pressure to perform on a big stage and there’s more scrutiny at Manchester United, but the pressure of staying in the league is a lot more intense and that hit me very quickly. Not that I was going to expect that so it was strange really.”