Fergie - Fletcher is key

United boss happy to see decision to ring changes vindicated

Fletcher: Return from illness is a boost for United after being labelled a 'big-game player' by his manager

Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested Darren Fletcher will be a key figure when Manchester United meet Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final.

Fletcher missed the 2009 showdown between the two sides through suspension, but is being lined up to start at Wembley on 28th May.

The midfielder returned from two months out with a virus by appearing as a substitute in Wednesday's 4-1 thrashing of Schalke in the semi-final second leg at Old Trafford.

He could enjoy another cameo appearance against Premier League title rivals Chelsea at the weekend and Ferguson is relishing the chance to pick Fletcher in the big games again.

Big-game player

"It wouldn't have been fair to pitch Darren in from the start because he really does need games," said Ferguson.

"But he is catching up all the time and we may get him on the bench against Chelsea on Sunday with a view to getting more game time.

"Some players are big-game players and he is one.

TITLE RUN-IN

MAN UTD
May 8 v Chelsea (H)
May 14 v Blackburn (A)
May 22 v Blackpool (H)
CHELSEA
May 8 v Man Utd (A)
May 15 v Newcastle (H)
May 22 v Everton (A)

"The perfect example is Mark Hughes, he was one of the best big-game players in United's history. He never failed in a big game and Darren is the same type of player."

Ferguson made nine changes from the team which beat Schalke 2-0 in the first leg to ensure his players are fresh for Sunday's showdown with Chelsea.

The United boss added: "I woke up about four times last night and picked different teams. But they did me proud.

"When I analysed each individual who was playing, I said to myself, 'This is a Manchester United player. Why can't I play him?'

"The fact it's a semi-final and such an important game does create a certain bit of doubt in your mind as to whether you're doing the right thing but I'm glad we were vindicated.

"We're in the final now and we'll prepare properly. We've got a big game on Sunday, so let's look forward to that."