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Marouane Fellaini and Manchester United – A continuing and troubling mismatch

Back in 2013, when David Moyes took the reigns from Sir Alex Ferguson in becoming just the second manager of Manchester United within the last 27 years, the move was arguably doomed to fail from the start. With the perspective of hindsight, the jump from Everton to the reigning champions of the Premier League simply proved to be too much to handle. The same could arguably be said for Manchester United’s second recruit from Everton that Summer, as despite outstaying the Scotsman, Marouane Fellaini has failed to live up to expectations during his reign in Manchester.

With all fairness to the big Belgian, the move itself was arguably never destined to be a success, as he simply wasn’t type of player that the current squad was crying out for. Despite claiming the Premier League in the previous campaign, United’s 13/14 squad was not blessed with great depths of quality, most specifically from its central midfielders. In a side that certainly lacked that spark and creativity in the central midfield area, ever since failing to replace Paul Scholes, names such as Toni Kroos, Cesc Fabregas and Thiago were all being linked to United.

However, United ended up with the deadline day signing of Fellaini, a player who struggled to establish himself as a key member of the side after failing to find his best fitting position. At Everton, the Belgian powerhouse excelled in that number 10 role behind the striker, where he would hold the ball up against defenders and thus create a real nuisance of himself in the opposition’s box. Under David Moyes, he was mainly utilised as a defensive midfielder but struggled to make an impact after looking rather shaky on the ball. Sitting alongside Michael Carrick, the two never formed a formidable partnership as with both players preferring to sit deep in the centre area of the field, they thus created a rather rigid and static system in the team, as oppose to a fast paced and fluid one.

 

Although he enjoyed small glimpses of improvement under Louis Van Gaal, most particularly with that effective ‘triangle shape’ between himself, Ashley Young and Daley Blind, his 31 League starts across two full campaigns again paints a rather similar picture. These improvements specifically stemmed from Fellaini being played as this target man high up the field, where admittedly he is effective in causing a nuisance by either holding the ball up for his teammates around him or just simply flicking the ball on.

Time to go or Joses favourite student?

As mentioned, Fellaini’s fortunes did improve at the club under Van Gaal but he still never really hit the heights expected from your £30m midfielder. Under Jose Mourinho however, Fellaini has arguably played his best football, or at least played his most effective role at the club. With Jose preferring those warrior type players, who are willing to go out on the field and give everything for the team, Fellaini has enjoyed playing in a squad rotational policy, where he has certainly become Jose’s ‘Mr. Reliable.’

Despite playing well in this role, one must question as to whether it is time for the Belgian to now depart, with reports speculating that Galatasaray are now in for the midfielder. Although Fellaini is a rather unorthodox kind of character and does of course possess some valuable attributes, is he really a Manchester United player? As a player who certainly splits the United fan-base’s opinion, you must wonder if fans will ever truly warm to Fellaini and truly accept him as one of their own. Perhaps Marouane reminds fans too much of the short and unsuccessful reign under David Moyes and perhaps he is part of the deadwood within the club, that needs clearing out.

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