On Friday afternoon, Manchester United announced that Marouane Fellaini had signed a new two-year contract that will extend his stay at Old Trafford until the summer of 2020, with an option of an additional twelve months.
The Belgian midfielder had been widely expected to depart in the summer with his original contract set to expire at the end of June and a number of clubs across Europe, including Arsenal and AC Milan, were linked with a move.
However, the news that the 30-year-old is set to stay at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future was met with mixed emotions from supporters.
Fellaini joined United in the summer of 2013 in a £27.5 million deal from Everton following the appointment of David Moyes as Alex Ferguson’s successor.
The midfielder had been a central figure at Goodison Park and was renowned for his physicality, aerial threat and his knack of scoring important goals at vital times in matches.
Unfortunately, Fellaini had never been able to replicate that form at Old Trafford.
The Belgian has made over 150 appearances for United but has predominantly been used as an impact substitute or ‘Plan B’ during his time at the club.
His lack of technical ability has often left supporters frustrated when he has featured in the starting line-up and kept affluent players out of the team with many believing that he is simply not good enough.
However, Jose Mourinho is a big admirer of the 30-year-old and has petitioned hard to ensure that the player’s contractual demands were met by the club hierarchy.
In contrast to what many United supporters appear to think, the fact that Fellaini will remain at Old Trafford will actually be a significant boost for the club.
First, it is clear that that he will be a squad player at United this season.
Moruinho already has his preferred central midfield trio of Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and new £52 million signing Fred in place whilst Andre Herrera will also be competing for a starting spot.
It is highly unlikely that Fellaini will be a regular feature in the starting eleven and his role will be that of an impact substitute or rotational squad player.
The 30-year-old suits that role perfectly. His height, physicality and aerial prowess adds something different to United’s attack and provides Mourinho with the perfect Plan B should the team need to play a more direct style of play.
Fellaini’s winning goal against Arsenal in August is the perfect example of how his introduction can turn a game on its head, as was his equaliser in Belgium’s victory over Japan yesterday evenng
Second, by signing a new contract the Belgian has effectively saved Mouirnho £30–40 million of his transfer budget.
If Fellaini had departed Old Trafford then United would have been forced to delve into the transfer market to find an adequate replacement.
Quality central midfield players do not come cheap and his new contract means that Mourinho can concentrate on investing money on other areas of the team instead.
Ultimately, the new contract has saved Mourinho and United an awful lot of money.
So, whilst some supporters may feel frustrated at the news that Fellaini will remain at Old Trafford, the move make sense on both a football and financial level.
The Belgian will contribute as the season progresses as an impact player and the money saved on not having to purchase a replacement could facilitate the arrival of a new big-name signing in another area of the team.
As long as Fellaini is used as an impact substitute or Plan B, United fans should be content with the fact that the 30-year-old is staying.