Fletcher forced to take a break
Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has been forced to take an extended break from football to recover from a chronic bowel disease, the Premier League champions said Tuesday.
The 27-year-old Scotland international, who was out of action from March to September with what United previously called a ''virus,'' has been suffering from ulcerative colitis - a chronic inflammatory bowel condition.
Fletcher was on the bench last Wednesday when United lost at FC Basel in the Champions League and last played on Nov. 22 against Benfica, scoring in the 2-2 draw.
''Whilst he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently,'' United said on its website. ''Darren's continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimizing his own health and fitness.''
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, blood loss, weight loss and fatigue. There's no known cure for the disease.
''He has ... accepted medical advice to take an extended break from the demands of training and playing in order to afford the best chance possible of achieving full remission once again,'' United said. ''We request that his privacy is respected and hope that the removal of the additional stress associated with speculation regarding his health will also aid his recovery.''
Fletcher signed a new four-year deal with United in March, securing his place at the club until 2015.
Fletcher has won four league titles, the Champions League, an FA Cup and two League Cups since making his debut for United in 2003.