He has been ever-present this season, he has been consistent and is doing everything asked of him. Which one of Manchester United’s superstars are we talking about? Why, Marouane Fellaini of course.
It is probably a little unfair to use the word renaissance, as he never really became a bad player, he was just never a very good one. He is proving to be of some worth to United now though, a situation unseen by certain blinkered supporters who were never prepared to give him a chance. He has also managed to stay in the Belgian national team along with some world class players, so he’s not that bad.
Signed by David Moyes for £4 million more than he should have been, he looked ungainly and out of place in the early phases of his United career. He was often guilty of the illegal use of his elbows and would charge into tackles very clumsily.
After Moyes was sacked, Louis van Gaal used Fellaini as the go-to centre forward when United needed a goal, or the go-to centre half when they needed to defend one. There was a short spell when van Gaal, rather strangely, admitted that he wasn’t too concerned that he hadn’t signed a new striker as Fellaini could play the role if required.
Due to his poor managerial performance at United, Louis van Gaal was relieved of his duties, resulting in a collective sigh of relief from millions of Reds fans around the world. An even bigger collective sigh of relief was heard when Manchester United finally appointed the manager they should have employed when Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
This, according to the “experts” would signal the end of a few player’s careers at Old Trafford. Chief among these was Marouane Fellaini. ‘There was no way he was going to fit into a side managed by Mourinho’, they said.
To date, he has been preferred to Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger. In fact he has been partly responsible for ending the career of the latter at Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho likes the height and the defensive qualities possessed by the Belgian, in much the same way as van Gaal did. While involved in close games where the difference is only one goal Fellaini may just prevent an equaliser or score a winner. This is why, for example, when substitutions were being made recently against Hull City, Fellaini was not one of the ones to be replaced.
It may be different if United are winning comfortably or if they play teams who do not possess a couple of big target men, such as Manchester City. He is certainly not as effective when he is up against the likes of Raheem Sterling or David Silva in midfield, or Sergio Agüero up front. In fact, these are the type of players who can make him look like a fish up a tree!
Fellaini, to borrow some computer lingo, is a “wysiwyg” player. There is no point asking him to do anything differently. Van Gaal once said that Fellaini could play defence, midfield or attack. Yes he can, providing he can play all those positions in the same style.
As a defensive midfielder he will try and break up play. As an attacking midfielder he will try and break up play higher up the pitch. As a forward he will use his height to try and win the ball. As a defender he will use his height to try and win the ball.
When all said and done, Marouane Fellaini knows only one way of playing football. Marc Wilmots was wrong when he said that van Gaal was playing him out of position. There is no such thing as “out of position” for Fellaini, he plays the same way wherever he happens to be on the pitch. It is just a question of choosing where he will be the most effective and this will only be decided when the opponents have been analysed.
To date, both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have been pretty successful in their deployment of the Belgian. So much so that, at the moment, Mourinho doesn’t want to leave him out even though the fans think there are better options on the bench.
As for Fellaini himself, he has just quietly carried on with the job and tried to do his best when called upon. Maybe that is why all his managers like him!
The original article can be found on the excellent Why Say Anything?
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