Football: Van Gaal ready to let Fletcher leave United

Darren Fletcher of Manchester United (left) and Joseph Edwards of Yeovil chase the ball during their FA Cup third round soccer match at Huish Park, Yeovil, western England, Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Darren Fletcher of Manchester United (left) and Joseph Edwards of Yeovil chase the ball during their FA Cup third round soccer match at Huish Park, Yeovil, western England, Jan 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said Friday he was prepared to let Darren Fletcher leave on a free transfer to Premier League rivals West Ham as he ruled out adding to his squad before Monday's transfer deadline.

The 30-year-old Fletcher has played for United for over a decade and has made almost 350 appearances for the club where he has so far spent all of his career.

But despite being made vice captain by van Gaal at the start of the season, the Scotland international - whose life, let alone career was threatened when he was diagnosed with the bowel condition ulcerative colitis in 2008 - has made only five starts this season.

Fletcher was having a medical with West Ham on Friday and, should his move go through, he will leave for the London club with the manager's blessing even though United announced Friday that England midfielder Michael Carrick had been ruled out for the next four weeks with a "ruptured muscle".

"He is an important guy in the dressing room," van Gaal said of Fletcher at a news conference on Friday. "I like him as a human being and a player. We shall miss him but he has not played many times.

"That is the main goal of a player and we have talked about that and he preferred to play, therefore we have helped him.

"For us it's a miss and for the other club who bought him it is another player with a lot of qualities, as a midfielder but also as a captain.

"He is a very experienced player. But we also have in the same role another experienced player and that's the problem here."

LEICESTER LESSON

Van Gaal has been linked with several potential targets during January but the Dutchman was adamant he had no plans to enter the transfer market.

"We won't be signing. I'm not interested in players, only selling or letting players go," van Gaal said.

United spent around £150 million (S$300 million) on strengthening their squad in pre-season, with the aim of securing a top-four finish in the Premier League and a place in the Champions League.

Van Gaal's side are currently fourth in the table but look for from the finished article and it's likely they will spend again after the end of this season when their top targets - including AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman and Borussia Dortmund defender Matt Hummels - are more likely to be available.

In the short term, van Gaal is looking to trim his squad, with midfielder Anderson believed to be in talks with Brazilian side Internacional.

United play Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday seeking only a second win in five Premier League games.

And van Gaal will expect his side to deal with the challenge of the league's bottom club better than they did in September when Leicester came back from 3-1 down with less than half an hour to go to win 5-3 and cast doubt upon United's defensive capabilities.

"When things are happening in a wrong way you have to control the game still," van Gaal said Friday.

"That happens in football and that is also the beauty of football. But as a top club you have to control a match and when you are in a good result, like 3-1 or 2-1, you have to finish the match.

"When we conceded the second goal, as a team, we were not playing as a team organisation any more.

"That is what we have to keep all the time, keep our team organisation and game plan and we have to improve on that."