Darren Fletcher is unaccustomed to being on the wrong end of intermittent drubbings. The Manchester United midfielder, though, has admitted that last night's 3-0 defeat while on duty for Scotland in Sweden had an air of familiarity about it. Fletcher, who captained the Scots, joined the manager Craig Levein in pointing out within their dressing room in Stockholm that performances must improve.
Exactly a year ago, Fletcher was part of a Scotland side who lost 4-0 to Norway in Oslo. "It was similar to that," Fletcher said. "We lost an early goal in that game as we did against Sweden, and you always leave gaps when you're chasing the game. The manager obviously let us know that it was not acceptable and the more experienced players know that we can't defend like that, that we've got to talk, we've got to track back. It wasn't just about the defence. It was about everyone."
The 26-year-old also feared Sweden's margin of victory could have been wider. "Yes, of course," Fletcher said. "When you lose an early goal you've always got to compose yourselves, get back to basics and get back to defending. We didn't do that. It took us a good 15 minutes to settle into the game and by then it was almost too late."
The shred of consolation for Fletcher and his team-mates was that the game was only a friendly. The more serious stuff starts for Levein early next month, with back-to-back European Championship qualifying matches against Lithuania and Liechtenstein.
"Luckily, Sweden wasn't a qualifier," Fletcher added. "Nobody likes losing but maybe it's a kick up the backside ahead of these two important qualifiers. The biggest thing we've got to learn from this is that away from home you've got to make it tight, you've got to make teams earn their goals – and we didn't do that. We gave away sloppy goals – especially the first two – and chasing a game away from home is very difficult.
"The game plan has got to be to keep it tight, frustrate the home team and make their fans get on top of them. So we have to learn from the mistakes against Sweden and quickly because we've got these two qualifiers coming up. It was said at half-time and at full-time that we have to learn from what happened in Sweden. We have to do better in the qualifiers."
Allan McGregor's performance in the Scotland goal – on what was obviously a busy evening – was hailed by Levein as "excellent" following his return from the Boozegate scandal to deputise for the injured Craig Gordon.
"We knew he was top-class and his performance was exceptional," Fletcher said. "We know that if Craig's not there the manager has two top-class goalkeepers, who we're very fortunate to have."