Marouane Fellaini has been a polarising character since joining Manchester United in 2013. However, he has since found his niche in the squad and has a big supporter in Jose Mourinho.
The Belgian isn’t going to be a first-team starter every week, but he has a role to play in the new, exciting United team. Paul Pogba’s injury meant that there was a place available in the midfield and the former Everton midfielder was selected to start against his old club, ahead of Ander Herrera.
Mourinho has overseen an attacking style at Old Trafford at the start of this season and it has excited supporters. Fellaini doesn’t suit that quick style, but he is effective at what he does and he offered a physical presence in the middle of the park.
It is useful to have him on the pitch as he is a good out-ball as he dominates in the air. Against Everton, he won five aerial duels with a success rate of 63%. His size does mean that he is penalised for being too imposing at times, but he wins more duels than he loses.
There are some that see Fellaini as a weak link in defence, as he isn’t the most mobile, but he has become more intelligent in his positioning during recent years to make up for that. His aggressive style suited United on Sunday as he regularly regained possession.
The Belgian international ended the match with four tackles and four interceptions, underlining the value that he offered the team. He made more ball recoveries than anyone else on the pitch and vindicated the decision to start with him.
Considering the way that Manchester United look to use him aerially, it is impressive that Fellaini ended the match with an 80% pass success rate. The 29-year-old has become more reliable in possession and his greatest impact was in attack.
He won the ball high up the pitch by dispossessing Ashley Williams, before moving it quickly up to Romelu Lukaku who set up the second goal.
This came at a crucial time in the game and put the result beyond doubt. Fellaini’s impact in the goal won’t be widely reported, but it was the most important contribution to it. You can get a free soccer bet for the Red Devils’ next match.
The Belgian has come a long way in the last 18 months and he has benefitted hugely from the management of Jose Mourinho. The United boss knows how to get the best from him and uses him as a tactical weapon. Fellaini understands his own limitations, but he will be relishing his current role in the squad.
It is likely that he will be used more often against the better teams and although he isn’t a typical United player, he is beginning to become an important one.