Darren Fletcher believes Manchester United can win the league this season and claimed the team is getting stronger and more confident under Louis Van Gaal’s tutelage, with the Dutchman having already gone some distance into bringing back the club’s “winning mentality” in the dressing room.
United booked a spot in tonight’s International Champions Cup final after a 3-1 win over Real Madrid on Saturday, their third win in four games on their US tour (United required penalties to get the better of Inter Milan) and Fletcher insisted the players are relishing the opportunity to face Liverpool and are in a confident mood have some good displays.
“They [the performances in pre-season] have been fantastic. The results are important, but so are the performances and they have got better with every game,” said Fletcher in an interview with The Guardian.
“Hopefully that can continue, but the main thing is winning games and getting that mentality back. We can feel it coming back. Before the first game [against Los Angeles Galaxy], we spoke about doing that – winning and getting the feel-good factor of winning because it breeds confidence.”
United face Liverpool in the final of International Champions Cup tonight and Fletcher insisted meeting between the sides can never be considered as friendlies: “It’s Man United v Liverpool. I know it’s only pre-season and it’s just a summer competition, but when United play Liverpool, it is always a big deal,” Fletcher said. “We want to win every match and it is no different when we play Liverpool.”
It might only be a summer tournament, but the Scotsman is keen for United to partially atone last season’s 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford. “Hopefully, yes. We have just beaten Real Madrid, the European champions, and we now want to go on and beat Liverpool,” he said. “That is the sort of thing that gives the squad confidence.
“We have a lot of young players out here and you have to remember that. But all of us have to do it as a team, collectively, and we are doing that.”
When asked if United’s seventh place finish last season meant they have no chance of winning the league this season, the United midfielder was quick to dismiss the theory. “I don’t think so, no. We go out to win the league,” he said.
“It is a dangerous mindset to have, to target fourth place. We are not players or a club that thinks like that and we will be going out to win the league.”
Fletcher was adamant that a lack of European football might also help United to climb back up the table. “I think Liverpool showed that last year and we believe we can win the league again,” said the United midfielder.
“Liverpool didn’t have European football last year and they went close to winning the league, so hopefully we can go one better next year.”
The 30-year-old has captained United in three of their four tour matches but he doesn’t consider himself a favourite for the captaincy under Louis Van Gaal.
“I think it [being handed the captain’s armband in pre-season] is just because I have played the 90 minutes in those games. I’ve had three 90 minutes and been captain three times,” said Fletcher, who was positive about returning to full fitness: “I think so. I was so excited to start pre-season and get back in the gym. I have worked hard in the off-season. I haven’t had a pre-season for about three years now, but it is very important for any player and it has been great for me to be so involved.
“I am not playing catch-up now or behind anybody in terms of fitness and that gives you a big advantage.”