Date: 15th October 2007 at 2:34pm
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It seems that Fergie’s reluctance to allow his players to leave for international duty does not extend to the Scotland team!

In the past, our fiery Scot was renowned for doing his utmost to ensure that our half-fit or just recently returned players stay in Manchester and do not go for international duty. Only the past week he had an outburst against the FA and FIFA because of an international match day in March that would come between vital clashes that could determine the outcome of United’s season.

But with Scotland in Euro fever, our wily old boss could stay cool. Darren Fletcher hasn’t featured for United since suffering an injury on, unsurprisingly, international duty on September 12. Yet the midfielder will start against Georgia on Wednesday after Fergie gave Alex McLeish permission for it.

An amazing turnaround in attitude, isn’t it? Nobody would be surprised if supposedly injured Louis Saha started against Aston Villa and it wouldn’t come across as a great shock if Wes Brown, removed from the England squad, took the right-back post. But Fletcher goes to Georgia with the best wishes of his manager.

Of course, the explanation is simple. Scotland have done magnificently so far in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign and while Fergie can’t be bothered by the results of England, France or Portugal, he’s a Scot and I’m sure he’s painfully excited ahead of Wednesday’s crunch game at Georgia. One of his favourite ex-players, Alex McLeish, once a rock-solid centre-back at Aberdeen, is in charge of the team that has the chance of pulling off a major shock by topping France and Italy.

But McLeish with whom Fergie still has an excellent relationship has got problems ahead. Alan Hutton, Gary O’Connor, Scott Brown and Lee McCulloch are all ruled out, therefore he’ll be without four key players. A fifth one, however is arriving from Manchester.

I of course see nothing wrong in this whole thing. Scotland now need Fletcher desperately, more than Manchester United and it’s bloody certain that the guy wants to play for his country in such an important game above all else. But what about Fergie’s credibility?

Will anyone believe him when the next time he’s talking about protecting his players? After all, here is a man who has just returned after injury and SAF, against all his usual attitudes, gave him permission to play in a difficult, demanding, stressful game. He will be hard pressed to find excuses for not letting his players away on international duty after this. United’s players supposed injuries will be very doubtful in the eyes of everyone if they are ruled out right before an international game…