London: Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher admitted on Sunday that he will miss the start of his side's Premier League title defence as he continues to recover from a bowel operation.
Fletcher has been struggling with ulcerative colitis for the past five years and underwent surgery in January in a bid to cure the problem.
Asked when he would be back in action for the champions, Scotland international Fletcher told BBC Radio Five Live: "Hopefully, not too long after the start of the season. I think I will just miss the beginning of the season."
Fletcher spent nine months on the sidelines in 2012 to see if his symptoms settled down before returning last September.
The 29-year-old appeared in three games out of four matches at the end of November, but he was restricted to just two more brief substitute appearances -- the last of which came in the 4-3 win over Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
He admits the strain of trying to deal with the illness has taken its toll at times.
"I've had it for five years but really struggled to control it for the last three years," Fletcher said.
"It's had a big impact on my day-to-day life, never mind trying to play football.
"Medication wasn't helping me but surgery was the only solution if I wanted to have not only a future playing football but even a quality of life going forward."
However, Fletcher believes he is finally on the road to recovery and he hopes to get the chance to prove himself to new United manager David Moyes before the end of the year.
"It's all going well. I am still under the hands of the medical team just now, and the surgeon who is looking after me. Everything is going to plan so far and I am not that far away now," he added.
"I am doing exercise on my own. I've not been given the green light to join in contact in football training but I am doing my own running and physical activities and feel great.
"Hopefully, in the next few weeks I am going to get the green light to join in and to start making the comeback, which is looking very good."