Darren Fletcher speaks about the impact Roy Keane had on his career 11 months ago

Darren Fletcher speaks about the impact Roy Keane had on his career

"He laid down the challenge for me."

Darren Fletcher has been speaking about the impact Roy Keane had on his career.

The pair were teammates at Manchester United between 2002 and 2005, when Keane departed Old Trafford in explosive circumstances.

The club captain criticised several of his teammates during an MUTV show analysing United's loss against Middlesbrough.

Rio Ferdinand, Kieran Richardson, Wes Brown, John O'Shea and Fletcher were among those Keane is said to have criticised. On Monday Night Football, Fletcher was asked about Keane's remark.

The Stoke City midfielder, who left United for West Brom in 2015, said that he accepted the criticism from his former captain, that it was Keane's way of setting him a "challenge."

"It was sort of along the lines of, 'people in Scotland are telling you how great Darren Fletcher is playing for Scotland, he's got to do that for Manchester United'," Fletcher said when asked about Keane's comments on MUTV.

"He threw down a challenge to me. Maybe my form in that period was better for Scotland than it was for Manchester United.

"But, on the flip side, I used to get that playing for Scotland, (people would say) I wasn’t playing as well for Scotland as I was for Manchester United. These things happen.

Fletcher went on to speak about the impact Keane had on him as a player. And how he was one of Fletcher's biggest fans among the United squad.

"He laid down the challenge for me, but that's all people remember," he said.

"Roy Keane was fantastic with me, he praised me, gave me belief, he praised me constantly. People don't see the nice stories about Roy Keane. (They like) the ones where he hammers people because they're the ones that people refer to.

"Nobody wants to talk about Roy Keane being nice, do they?"

In his second autobiography, Keane spoke highly of Fletcher. He said that he was sometimes critical of the midfielder because he thought he had the potential to be a good player.

"I always rated Darren and I used to push him," Keane said.

"I think the lads I was really critical of were the ones I rated. 'I think you’ve got a chance of being a top player – I think you could do better.' There’s always a compliment in that. The players I didn’t want to speak about, they were the ones who should have been worried. I went to Old Trafford not long ago; United played Liverpool in the League Cup. The first player to walk over and shake my hand was Darren Fletcher. Darren knew that I would have backed him to the hilt."

On Sky Sports, Fletcher also spoke about his relationship with Alex Ferguson, and how he earned the trust of the former United manager.

"I gained his trust in big games from a young age in terms of falling orders and instructions and maybe being given a specific job," he said.

"And also maybe my style suited bigger games in terms of winning the ball back, (showing) energy, things like that were we’re playing against a team that might have more of the ball.

"So, he gave me a chance to show my athleticism, maybe trigger pressing, maybe doing a job against an influential player in the team and it started off against Vieira in an FA Cup semi-final. And from that moment on, Alex Ferguson knew if he gave me a specific job, I would follow it out to the latter and not necessarily worry about my own performance with the ball.

"I would follow those instructions to the letter and I didn’t feel any pressure in the big games. I enjoyed them, that's what I was at Manchester United for, I almost craved them, I was excited by them."