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How Marouane Fellaini moved from villian to hero status
10 October 2017, 10:55
How Marouane Fellaini moved from villian to hero status
Vlad1988 / Shutterstock.com

Marouane Fellaini moved to Old Trafford in 2013, in a summer that went down as one of the club’s biggest failures in recent times.

Before his arrival, opinion was split between Manchester United fans as to whether the move was a good one. Those that supported the move pointed at some of his displays for Everton even against United; some of them specifically pointed at how the club always struggled to contain the Belgian’s physicality whenever he played against them. On the other hand, those that disagreed with the move doubted that he was good enough to play in Manchester United’s midfield, and they had a point.

Over the years, Manchester United has had different qualities of midfielders, from Paul Scholes, to Micheal Carrick, to Tom Cleverly and Anderson. These players all had different levels of skills, but one thing they all had in common was well above average passing skills and technique. Marouane Fellaini falls below average in these two areas. At Everton, he was more of an attacking midfielder than a central midfielder. He played his best games for the Merseysiders in an attacking midfield role, playing off the shoulder of the main forward as a battering ram whose job was to use his physicality to cause troubles for opposition defenders and in the process, get some goals and help the main forward get some too. What Manchester United needed though was a midfield lynchpin to replace Paul Scholes and complement Micheal Carrick especially after losing Paul Pogba to Juventus, and Marouane Fellaini wasn’t that kind of player.

Marouane Fellaini’s start to life at Manchester United was anything but above average. In an unfortunate season for the whole club, him and David Moyes became the scapegoat for a shambolic season which saw the defending champions finish seventh and miss out on Champions League football. David Moyes was sacked before the end of the season and several fans called for Marouane Fellaini to be shown the door right after him, but that didn’t happen, and luckily too for everyone, as it turns out.

Louis van Gaal was appointed the following season and he instantly took a liking to the Belgian to the chagrin of the Old Trafford faithful. When the Dutch tactician switched to a 4-3-3 formation, Marouane Fellaini was preferred ahead of Angel di Maria, the record signing for the red devils at the time. Playing in a midfield-three with Micheal Carrick and Ander Herrera, he quickly repaid his manager’s trust with very good and consistent performances. Even the following season when Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schwensteiger arrived at the club, Fellaini was still the preferred choice in a double-pivot central midfield.

Louis van Gaal was sacked after a two-year spell in charge of Manchester United and Jose Mourinho was appointed. Marouane Fellaini once again became his preferred partner for Paul Pogba ahead of Ander Herrera and Micheal Carrick. This continuous preference for the Belgian by successive Manchester United managers even led some fans to jokingly insinuate that perhaps the player had the managers’ nude pictures that he used in blackmailing them to keep playing him. Fast forward one year on, to the overall reaction of Manchester United fans as he was carried away from the pitch after he got injured in a qualifier for Belgium, you get the feeling that Fellaini is no longer considered a nuisance but a very key player for the club by the fans. When one listens to Jose Mourinho talk about him, one gets the feeling that he considers him one of his most important players, and when you watch the Belgian play, you understand why.

Marouane Fellaini may never consistently set the pitch alight with fancy flicks and skills, he may never go a fifty-metre dash and chip the goalkeeper, he may never score a forty-yard strike, but you will never be able to fault his commitment on the pitch. Managers love players that give everything on the pitch, they love players that listen and play according to instructions. Marouane Fellaini is one of those, and as long as he keeps that up, managers will always consider him indispensable.

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OVERALL TABLE PTS GP W D L GF GA +/-
1. Manchester City 25 9 8 1 0 32 4 28
2. Manchester United 20 9 6 2 1 22 4 18
3. Tottenham 20 9 6 2 1 19 6 13
4. Chelsea FC 16 9 5 1 3 17 10 7
5. Arsenal 16 9 5 1 3 17 12 5
6. Watford FC 15 9 4 3 2 15 17 -2
7. Newcastle Utd 14 9 4 2 3 10 8 2
8. Burnley FC 13 9 3 4 2 8 9 -1
9. Liverpool FC 13 9 3 4 2 14 16 -2
10. Southampton 12 9 3 3 3 8 9 -1
11. Huddersfield 12 9 3 3 3 7 10 -3
12. Brighton 11 9 3 2 4 9 10 -1
13. West Bromwich 10 9 2 4 3 7 10 -3
14. Leicester City 9 9 2 3 4 12 14 -2
15. Swansea City 8 9 2 2 5 6 10 -4
16. West Ham 8 9 2 2 5 8 17 -9
17. Stoke City 8 9 2 2 5 10 20 -10
18. Everton FC 8 9 2 2 5 7 18 -11
19. Bournemouth 7 9 2 1 6 6 13 -7
20. Crystal Palace 3 9 1 0 8 2 19 -17

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