Darren Fletcher is taking a leave of absence from professional soccer to deal with a chronic health issue. The Manchester United and Scotland midfielder's condition has caused him to miss significant time in recent months, according to Manutd.com.
"Over the past year he has had several absence periods which we have attributed to a viral illness in order to respect his right to medical confidentiality," a club statement read. "Darren has, in fact, been suffering from ulcerative colitis (a chronic inflammatory bowel condition) for some time preceding this."
"Whilst he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently and Darren's continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness."
"He has therefore accepted medical advice to take an extended break from the demands of training and playing in order to afford the best chance possible of achieving full remission once again."
No recovery timetable has been announced, but Fletcher's absence will compound manager Sir Alex Ferguson's selection problems in the midfield. United is already without the services of Anderson and Tom Cleverly, who are battling injuries. Ryan Giggs, Darron Gibson and Michael Carrick are the only first-team center midfielders availbable to Ferguson as United embarks on its hectic holiday schedule.
Fletcher has appeared in 10 games for United in all competitions this season. He last played in its 2-2 draw against Benfica on Nov. 22.
The 27-year-old joined the Red Devils as a boy and graduated from its youth system. He made his debut in 2003 and has been a key figure for the club over the last eight years. He has won four English Premier League championships, one FA Cup and one UEFA Champions League title.
The Scottish international has represented his country on 56 occasions, scoring seven goals.
Photo via Flickr/beanishfletch