Fletcher's future in doubt as Red Devils unveil duo
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has cast fresh doubt on the future of Darren Fletcher, saying the midfielder will be offered a non-playing role at the club if he fails to recover from a chronic bowel condition.
The Scotland international (28) has not played since November, when the condition forced him to take an extended break from football.
Ferguson revealed yesterday that Fletcher would not be ready to start next season, which had been his target, and said the midfielder would be given "as long as it takes" to get back.
"Darren hasn't started training with us yet," said the United boss. "Obviously he has got great challenges ahead and we are happy to be patient with him, but he won't be starting the season.
"It is unfortunate because he is such a magnificent professional and such a nice lad. But if it doesn't work for him he knows he has a position in the club anyway."
Ferguson was speaking as he unveiled his two new signings -- Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell.
The United manager monitored Kagawa (23) after being tipped off by United's Germany scout Peter Braund last October and the Japan international was finally signed for £17m from Borussia Dortmund last month.
Kagawa can fulfil a variety of attacking roles but his preference is for for a central role behind the main striker, and Ferguson expects the midfielder to make a significant impact once he has grasped the basics of the English language.
"He plays in behind the striker, he's very quick, and he's got good vision. His goal-scoring record over the last two years has been very good from that position," Ferguson said.
"It was good that he was with a successful team to allow him to adapt to European football. He's a maturing player and in the next few years we'll see that at United.
"I'm sure over the next few months he'll improve his English -- or Scottish, whichever is easier, but he won't understand my Scottish when I lose my temper anyway so it doesn't matter."
Powell (18) rose to prominence by helping Crewe, who he joined at the age of five, to promotion from League Two through the play-offs.
Although he thrived as an attacking midfielder, Ferguson expects to use the England U-18 international in a deeper role.
Ferguson said: "He's got a little bit of physical development go which you'd expect from an 18-year-old but he'll be in the first-team squad, he'll train with us every day.
"Football always throws up that opportunity for any one person. If they progress and they're good enough I don't have an issue with that. We play young players all the time."
Club officials blocked attempts to seek Ferguson's opinion on the Glazers' admission in their recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that their indebtedness could adversely affect the club's financial health and competitive position.
That debt currently stands at £423m and no explanation was ever offered as to how the Glazers managed to pay off £249m of high-interest payment-in-kind notes in 2010.
Ferguson confirmed that he hopes to make at least one more signing before the start of the new season, although it's unclear whether he will have to sell first. The futures of Dimitar Berbatov, Anderson and Patrice Evra are thought to be in doubt, with Everton left-back Leighton Baines thought to be on Ferguson's radar.
United have also been linked with Arsenal's transfer-seeking captain Robin van Persie, as well as Sao Paulo's Brazilian prospect Lucas Moura.
Whoever he signs, Ferguson his hoping to do his business soon.
"We have always done well in terms of getting players at the end of the season," Ferguson added. "We've always felt it is the right time.
"But whenever the European Championship or World Cup is on, there is usually a delay in the transfer industry. Now all that is over, we are still trying to get maybe one player in."
Ferguson's hunger for more success has doubtless been fuelled by the agonising manner in which his side lost their title to Manchester City on the last day of the season.
"Red wine helps," was his reaction to being asked how he felt about the two goals City scored in stoppage-time to end a 44-year wait for the title. (© Daily Telegraph, London)