Ferguson encouraged by Fletcher's Manchester United return

The Scotland international has been ruled out of action since November 2011 due to a chronic bowel condition, but he played 31 minutes on Tuesday in the 2-1 defeat to Aberdeen

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he is encouraged by Darren Fletcher's progress after the midfielder returned from a nine-month injury layoff on Tuesday evening.

Sir Alex took charge of a United XI made up of youngsters, first-team members and a few ex-players against his old club Aberdeen in honour of Dons legend Neil Simpson, but the main highlight from a Red Devils perspective was the return of Fletcher.

Fletcher, who has been sidelined since last November with ulcerative colitis, came on as a second-half substitute in Simpson's testimonial match, and although he could not prevent United suffering a 2-1 defeat to Aberdeen, Sir Alex was pleased with the midfielder’s involvement.

"We hope it's a start for him," Sir Alex told the club's official website. "We don't know [when he will be fully fit] because we're all aware he has an issue which he has to deal with.

"But he's dealing with it very well at the moment and what we've seen tonight is encouraging for us."

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Ferguson was also delighted with the welcome Fletcher received from the Aberdeen fans at Pittodrie, as the Scotland international entered the pitch to a standing ovation.

He continued: "I'm delighted and you saw the response he got, which was fantastic.

"Well done to the Aberdeen supporters who gave him a rousing reception and he deserves that for his contribution to Scotland's national team as he's been terrific for them.

"For Darren, it's great to be back and I hope it's the start for him. We don't know as we're all aware he's got this issue he needs to deal with and he's dealing with it very well at the moment. What we've seen tonight is encouraging for us.

"It's been a quiet progress for the boy. He joined in training a couple of weeks ago and it's one of these situations where you say, 'Let's see how he does', because he has had a really difficult time in the last year.

"Therefore, I wasn't really placing too much hope in it but let's see how he does. He's got to the stage now where he feels he needs a game. He's been training really well.

"I let him join Scotland this week for their game but he wanted a game so I said: 'Come to Aberdeen and join up afterwards'."

The defeat in Aberdeen marked the club's final pre-season match before the new Premier League campaign kicks off on Saturday, with United getting underway against Everton at Goodison Park on Monday night.