West Brom midfielder Darren Fletcher has admitted he looks back on his departure from Manchester United with regret and hopes his former side win all their remaining games this season – bar one.
Albion are hoping to build on their 3-1 victory over Arsenal with a win against the Red Devils on Saturday at a ground that Fletcher said still “feels like home”.
The 33-year-old made 223 Premier League appearances in a 12-year spell at Old Trafford, winning four league titles, the FA Cup and the Champions League amongst a glut of honours, and he remained an important part of the squad under David Moyes’ spell as manager in 2013-14.
Fletcher joined West Brom in February 2015 on a free transfer after falling out of favour under then United manager Louis van Gaal, and he told ESPN FC that he has mixed emotions about the move.
“I do look back with a little bit of regret because I actually thought I played really well for six months under Moyes and Ryan Giggs,” said Fletcher. “But to be honest, I don’t think I was ever in Van Gaal’s plans in the first place.
“I probably surprised him in pre-season, and that enabled me to stay when a lot of other players left, but ultimately, I couldn’t stay and not play. I would have been a bit-part player.
“I just couldn’t see a way out of it. I felt that I had a lot more football in me, and I wanted to get out and give myself a chance to play. It was nothing personal. I just felt the time was right to start a new challenge.”
Fletcher helped West Brom to a 1-0 win over United on his first trip back to Old Trafford in May 2015, but was on the losing side when Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata scored as Van Gaal’s side won 2-0 in last season’s fixture.
Baggies manager Tony Pulis will hope Fletcher lines up on the right side of the tunnel on Saturday.
“The first time I went back, I went out into the tunnel for the line-up and stood on the wrong side!” said Fletcher. “I was conscious of not making that mistake, but I was in the zone and ended up standing on the left side. I had to be told that the away team was on the other side!
“When I am on the pitch at Old Trafford, it just feels comfortable. It feels like home. When you are looking around, it just feels normal. It doesn’t feel daunting, that I am playing an away game. It is like a home game, except I am playing against the red shirts, rather than playing for them.
“After West Brom, United are the next team I look out for, and I always want them to do well. I know a result for us on Saturday would be detrimental to their hopes of finishing in the top four, but they are good enough to win every game after ours, and hopefully that happens.”