Fletcher: I'm confident in new wave
Darren Fletcher is confident his new four-year contract with Manchester United will coincide with a continued period of glory for the Old Trafford outfit. The 27-year-old's new deal will keep him with the Red Devils until 2015.
By then, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will have joined Gary Neville in retirement and it is quite possible Sir Alex Ferguson will have stepped down too. Yet Fletcher feels United can ride out the changes and maintain their place at English football's top table.
"I am confident in the ability we have got and the experience we have gained," said Fletcher. "Players like Giggs, Scholes and Neville will never be replaced because they are greats of the game.
"But you hope a new wave can create their own history and have their own achievements. I believe in the ability of these players. The drive and determination to do it is definitely there."
Fletcher has not always had an easy ride at United. He was regarded as a player of great talent when he arrived at the club from Dalkeith as a 15-year-old but was prevented from making his debut due to Football Association (FA) rules regarding schoolboys playing in first-team games.
At one point he seemed destined to join his former international boss Alex McLeish at Birmingham City. However, like so many others in the last few years, Fletcher improved markedly over a very short period of time.
After not playing any part in the 2008 UEFA Champions League final win over Chelsea, 12 months later, his absence through suspension was cited as one of the major reasons for United's failure to perform in their comprehensive defeat by Barcelona.
Fletcher is now regarded as one of the most effective box-to-box midfielders in the country, even if his attributes have been derided by Arsene Wenger. Now he forms part of the new 'old guard', knowing the legacy he inherits will be fairly significant.
"There are people here who act as inspirations, not only with what they do on the pitch but also the manner in which they conduct themselves," said Fletcher. "We look up to them and want to follow in their footsteps.
"If any of us can get even close to their careers and be fortunate to play for this great club for half as long, you would be doing ever so well and could count yourself very lucky."
Certainly, ahead of Sunday's match with Liverpool at Anfield, Fletcher can look back and acknowledge he made the correct decision to leave Scotland at such a young age, having amassed three Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup to go alongside his 288 appearances.
"It was hard to come down from Scotland," Fletcher admitted. "I was 15 and leaving your family behind. I thought I was a big man but I was still a young boy and the club needed to look after me. Fortunately, everything was in place for me to get a real education in football and it has been a great experience.
"The time since has flown by. There have been so many high points but lows as well. They are the ones that give you strength and determination to go on and achieve more. I have loved every minute. There is no place I would rather be."
Seven days ago, Ferguson expressed confidence that Rio Ferdinand would be fit to face the Merseyside giants but in the immediate aftermath of the Chelsea encounter, the United boss revealed Brown would partner Chris Smalling.
Given the significance of the occasion, and United's desperate need to bounce back from their defeat at Stamford Bridge, it would be no surprise if Giggs was named in the visitors' starting line-up, with 20-goal Dimitar Berbatov also hoping for a place.