Long-term absentee Darren Fletcher donned a Manchester United shirt for the first time in nine months during Neil Simpson’s testimonial match at Aberdeen yesterday.
The 28-year-old Scot has been sidelined after suffering from ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel condition that left his future in football in doubt – but came on as a second-half substitute much to the delight of his teammates.
Despite United’s assistant manager Mike Phelan urging the midfielder to take caution before returning to the highest level, Fletcher eased his way into the 2-1 win by joining his international teammates last week.
"I'm delighted and you saw the response he got, which was fantastic," Sir Alex told MUTV in a post-match interview.
"Well done to the Aberdeen supporters who gave him a rousing reception and he deserves that for his contribution to Scotland's national team as he's been terrific for them.
"For Darren, it's great to be back and I hope it's the start for him. We don't know as we're all aware he's got this issue he needs to deal with and he's dealing with it very well at the moment. What we've seen tonight is encouraging for us."
After injuries to Anderson and Tom Cleverley, Fletcher’s absence revoked Paul Scholes’ early retirement plans – but the playmaker came on to take the captain’s armband from Ryan Giggs and impressed his manager.
"It's been a quiet progress for the boy," Sir Alex added. "He joined in training a couple of weeks ago and it's one of these situations where you say 'Let's see how he does' because he has had a really difficult time in the last year’.
"Therefore, I wasn't really placing too much hope in it but let's see how he does.
"He's got to the stage now where he feels he needs a game. He's been training really well. I let him join Scotland this week for their game but he wanted a game so I said: 'Come to Aberdeen and join up afterwards'."