Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United, a mistake?
When Ron Atkinson arrived at Old Trafford from West Bromwich Albion in 1981 he brought with him two players who would become United legends in Remi Moses and Bryan Robson. Rumours abound that David Moyes is seeking to make a similar move for two of his most successful Everton signings: Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini.
Having been a scourge upon Manchester United’s midfield and defence during their Premier League battles over the past two years, fans know exactly how dangerous and awkward an adversary the Belgian can be, but is Fellaini the right man to shore up the squad?
With a reported £23M release clause Everton’s utility man would be an expensive mistake should David Moyes decide to make him his first signature signing. Here are six reasons why
Though a strong, difficult opponent to deal with when battling over loose, second balls in the centre of the park, Fellaini lacks mobility: a killer blow for his hopes of playing next to the equally sluggish Carrick.
United’s midfield can quickly become stodgy without the pace and agility to physically link the play next to the Englishman. This was sadly apparent at times when Carrick and Scholes lined up together last season. It’s also why Anderson and Tom Cleverley are so vital to the team when on form due to their ability to enhance Carrick’s strengths while covering for his poor pace; bursting and driving forward while dropping back to support the defence and prevent counters.
With his chested lay-offs and aerial prowess, can be a terrifying platform to play against but he is far too static for the fluid and dynamic needs of the Manchester United midfield.
A versatile myth
Since joining Everton in 2008, the Belgian has played in a number of positions inclding midfield, up-front, in the hole and as a defensive midfielder, but his versatility is misleading. Though impressive in his utility as a squad player, Fellaini excels in each of these positions playing a fairly similar role: once again, the physically dominant, obstinate play-breaker.
While he may play this role to distinction within the confines of Everton’s often-rigid tactics, at Manchester United it is unlikely he would benefit from such a stiff approach given the players available to Moyes.
Already lacking the deficiency-masking gift of pace, Fellaini could well become an isolated and limited figure within United’s first XI, unable to contribute to all the phases of play as they pass him by.
His ‘presence’ is nothing more than elbows
Having collected 36 yellow cards in five years and one red, discipline is something of an issue with Marouane Fellaini. With his propensity to strike out with elbows to enhance his “presence” in the air and while tussling for possession, it isn’t difficult to see how he’s earned the tag of being one of the Premier League’s dirtiest players.
Can United afford to sign a player likely to give away free kicks in dangerous positions when placed under pressure? Playing for Manchester United can be intense, especially on the field where opponents will look for any possible advantage or weakness, while rival fans will gladly taunt anyone they perceive to be distracted by their temper.
Players prone to falling under the red mist and lashing out are more often than not an unnecessary risk, and one United could do without.
He doesn’t play to our strengths
Proponents of Fellaini’s potential move to Old Trafford may suggest the first two points above are irrelevant. “Why not play Fellaini as a defensive midfield anchor man to screen the back four and bully opponents?” they may retort.
However, moving Fellaini into such a rigid position, deep in midfield, would be disruptive to how our best players perform.
Firstly, his presence as an anchorman would limit the space used by Carrick to drop deep to collect the ball from defenders and start counter-attacks. Secondly, the team would either have to play as a diamond or in 4-5-1 to accommodate Fellaini, either removing width on the wings or limiting options in attack and in the hole.
Thirdly, the need for another midfielder to counter the lack of pace and forward runs would mean that Shinji Kagawa is either ostracised to the flanks once again or dropped into becoming that central midfielder, if not dropped completely. The Japanese would once again be denied from playing in his best position, hampering his development. The ex-Dortmund playmaker has the ability to become United’s most influential creative player, especially in Europe, and it would be a great shame to hamper his development and growth within the team.
He wouldn’t cover our weaknesses
What are Manchester United missing at the moment?
Besides desire from some quarters for another new face on the flanks alongside Zaha, the key area for reinforcement remains the midfield. Had Michael Carrick been injured for any length of time last season the campaign for title number twenty would have suffered greatly. United desperately need a back-up for Carrick who can also partner him in a midfield two, assuming the formation remains based on a 4-2-3-1.
The ideal candidate would need to be a good passer, mobile, tactically smart with good awareness and be happy to press, close down and tackle opponents; ultimately an all-round, solid box-to-box midfielder.
Fellaini doesn’t fit the specification, and would only add to problems when it comes to the tempo of the team’s play, fluidity in transition and passing speed and accuracy. Even more so, his strengths – aerial power, holding up the ball, physical battling – are out of kilter with the style of play preferred by the rest of the Old Trafford squad.
Better options available for less
As stated, Fellaini’s release clause is thought to be £23M with Everton reluctant to sell.
Rather than breach the £20M barrier for a talent but limited player who doesn’t fit United’s needs, why not invest the money in players better suited for the demands (and more worthy of their price tags).
PSV Eindhoven’s Kevin Strootman has long been connected with a move to Old Trafford, and would cost significantly less than Fellaini while offering a much more rounded set of abilities.
Thiago Alacantra is apparently available for £15M due to a contract loop-hole, and could be a high flair understudy for Carrick and a potent new creative talent in support of Kagawa and co.
Silence reigns over Wayne Rooney’s future, but with talk of a dramatic exit fading is it possible David Moyes may have turned things around with his former Everton player? Though Rooney apparently wishes to remain playing a striker, his efforts from midfield last season suggest he has the vision to excel as a deep-lying playmaker, and could be an outside bet to be come United’s new midfield mainstay.
Having scored a penalty in May’s Champions League final, Ilkay Gundogan’s profile has soared, with numerous clubs chasing his signature. A technically adept and highly composed player, he could provide exceptional cover for Carrick or add a touch of sophistication as his partner, shuttling through the Manchester United midfield.
If David Moyes does want to rely on a proven Premier League name, he could do far worse than sign up Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye to the cause. The Frenchman is a figure of both industry and creativity for the Magpies and would be a welcome addition at Old Trafford, having been linked with a move since 2011.
What do you think of Manchester United signing Marouane Fellaini?