A Manchester United title challenge was not expected this season. It remains unlikely. The speed at which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have raced up the Premier League table is also the speed at which they could fall back down it. This is a season of fine margins, though. And in such a scenario, the arrival of fresh ideas, energy and impetus from a new first team coach is excellent news.
Darren Fletcher would be a good appointment in any situation. The Scot was an excellent midfielder, tutored by Roy Keane in his final years at United, who would have captained the club for longer were it not for the effect of illness on his career. He is an admirable person, too, who was showing potential as a refreshingly excellent analyst on radio and TV.
Solskjaer brings in another Ferguson disciple
Another disciple of Ferguson, like Solskjaer, Phelan and Carrick, Fletcher has long had further potential in coaching. Perhaps more so than the trio he now joins up with, Fletcher has similarities to his old boss; a tenacious Scot with a winning mentality who can adapt alongside the development of the sport.
It has been clear for some time now that a new face in the coaching staff could give United a boost. When, in September, United and Solskjaer appeared destined for an unhappy ending, that desire to see new ideas was bigger. Positivity is the word, now, and so Fletcher comes into the first team set-up to add further energy to a now flourishing team. United are a team with confidence and now with the knowledge that they could outperform their pre-season expectations.
Fletcher could make a difference in a season of fine margins
Fletcher's arrival will not change expectations, but in this season of fine margins - made possible by external factors such as COVID-19, injuries to Liverpool, a short pre-season for the big teams and a less flexible transfer market - small changes could make a good deal of difference. Quite how Fletcher will help we do not yet know, but if he can assist in maintaining the good form of Paul Pogba and Fred, that will be enough. If he can mentor Scott McTominay and his countryman can continue to widen his skillset, that will be enough.
United could bring in others as Ferguson did
There is more to be done at United. Solskjaer could do with his own Carlos Quieroz. That is not a new idea. Ferguson would not have won the 2008 Champions League without Quieroz' influence in improving the defence of the team. With United's defence inconsistent and still needing coaching, a defensive-minded coach with specific technical expertise in that regard could help. Set pieces, too, could be an area for United to find some additional expertise.
Nevertheless, Fletcher's appointment is one to continue the buoyant mood in Manchester but also add to the side's quality. It's an overwhelmingly good one for Solskjaer and his players. Fletcher is a tactical obsessive who loves the game. For fans, it's the return of a likeable character who deserves his chance back at the club.