London - Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has been ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to cure his chronic bowel condition.
Fletcher has been struggling with ulcerative colitis for nearly two years and missed the majority of last season as a result.
This season the Scotland international had hoped to resume his role in United's midfield but, after initially returning in September, he has made just two substitute appearances since starting the English Premier League game at Reading in December 1.
The 28-year-old has been unable to completely recover from the illness and his operation will keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the current campaign, casting more doubt about his ability to continue playing at the highest level.
"Darren Fletcher will be unavailable for the remainder of this season having undergone surgery to resolve his ulcerative colitis condition," United revealed in a statement on Thursday.
"We wish to stress this was a planned procedure undertaken at the optimal time having achieved a period of sustained good general health, as illustrated by the fact that Darren has trained with the team regularly this season and been available for selection right up to the operation.
"Whilst it is frustrating for both Darren and the club that he won't be able to contribute further during this campaign, this decision has been taken with our full support in the best interests of his long term health and we look forward to him returning next season with this problem firmly behind him.
"We would be grateful if his privacy could be respected at this time and in the coming months in order to aid his recuperation."
Fletcher missed pre-season training to ensure his comeback was a success and he returned as a substitute against Galatasaray at Old Trafford in September.
Although he initially eased his way back into the first-team fray, the Reading game represented his third start in four games and he spoke optimistically about his role in the coming weeks.
Instead, he hasn't been able to play since making his 10th appearance of the season as a late substitute against Newcastle on December 26.