Manchester United's Darren Fletcher out for the season with stomach illness
Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher is expected to miss the rest of the season due to a chronic stomach illness.
Fletcher, the Scotland captain, will take an extended break as he receives treatment for Ulcerative Colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition.
A United statement read: "Over the past year he has had several absence periods which we have attributed to a viral illness in order to respect his right to medical confidentiality; Darren has in fact been suffering from Ulcerative Colitis for some time preceding this.
"Whilst he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently and Darren’s continued desire to play and his loyalty to both Club and Country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness.
"He has therefore 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."
Fletcher has made only 10 appearances for United this season - his last game was the draw with Benfica on November 22.
His absence is another blow to United's season, which suffered a huge setback last week when the club were eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage for only the third time in 16 years. Fletcher's illness leaves manager Sir Alex Ferguson with yet another headache in the champions' problem area of midfield.
Fletcher has also played for his country in four Euro 2012 qualifiers this season.
Scotland boss Craig Levein said: "I am obviously absolutely devastated for Darren because I know how hard he has worked to get back to playing regularly for his club and country.
"He is one of the most inspirational players I have had the pleasure of working with and on behalf of his Scotland team-mates and my backroom staff I sincerely hope this time off, allied to the support of his family, will enable him to make a full recovery.
"Darren has shown tremendous dedication and fortitude, demonstrated by his ability to overcome this illness and perform at the highest level for Manchester United and Scotland.
"I spoke with Sir Alex Ferguson and Darren this week and the most important thing at this stage is for the player to be given time to rest and recuperate.
"Nobody is more committed to his country's cause than our captain. He is a central part of our plans for the World Cup 2014 qualifiers but at this stage his health is paramount and I would like to reiterate the best wishes of everyone at involved with the national team and the Scottish FA."