Why buying Marouane Fellaini would be a mistake for United

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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

Too static

michael-carrick-vs-tottenhamMichael Carrick is the hub of the United midfield, and with neither the passing ability nor technique to replace the Englishman, Fellaini would need to play alongside him in the team’s central pivot.

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

Marouane FellainiHaving 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.

shinji-kagawa-celebration-2Thirdly, 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?

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26 Comments

  1. Wow! Was this article written by a 12 year old or a new breed Sky fan. You clearly know nothing about the game and very little about Fellaini. I actually stopped reading

    In todays Bsport / Opta list of the Top 50 players in European Football, Fellaini is ranked 12th. There isn’t a single midfielder from United in top 50.

    • True lad had to stop reading myself were did u get this info from , if played in his real role defensive mid there aren’t many better , carrick did have a good season but he’s not that special

    • I don’t think this is a very insightful article either. Personally, I’d like to see Fellaini sign. But if the ‘Top 50’ list you cite has Fellaini at 12 and Carrick nowhere to be seen then it is clearly deeply flawed and should be treated as such.

  2. I quite agree Greg, I wouldn’t mind if he was around £8-10m where we could use him as a sub mainly but as a starting CM he is clearly not fluid enough to work within our style of play. The aggression would also be a major concern as it’s not even a reaction to the game it’s as if he just gets bored sometimes and throws an elbow rather than jump.

    • Now that you have Moyes your going to find out your style is going to change dramatically. I think Fellaini is going to suit your new style just fine.

  3. Got to say I disagree with the majority of this article. Is Fellaini better than any of our other midfielders bar Carrick? Undoubtedly yes and so he’d improve the team. I think it’s really unfair to say he’s not mobile and he could easily play alongside Carrick allowing Kagawa to line up behind van Persie.

    You pigeonhole him as effectively a body in midfield who will chase and harry when his technical qualities are fairly good. As for his versatility, he offers an option late on in games if you want to go more direct and also is a goal threat, particularly from set-pieces. He would also provide that nasty edge that Utd lack – countless times I feel we let teams to physically bully us and Fellaini would provide a bit of toughness in midfield. If he had that big a propensity for using his elbows, one would think he would have been sent off more than once in five years…

    I also find the assertion that Strootman is a much better option frankly ridiculous considering he has no Premier League experience added to the fact he looks slow himself whilst the suggestion Rooney could become a midfielder is laughable to anyone who watches Utd live week-in, week-out

  4. Some good points but overall real tosh. Fellaini would give us much needed physicality, goals and overall a new dimension. To say thiago would come as understudy to carrick is poor. Fellaini would be ideal IMO as well as a thiago or gundogan

  5. I agree a 100% with this article,makes perfect sense. D argument isn’t if fellaini is a gud player, its about if he wld suit our style of play,I for 1 don’t think so unless we want to change our play totally suit him(rmbr berbatov,great player but didn’t fit in d system) strooman is a better cheaper option or a martinez(bayern) type player

  6. I vehemently disagree with this article! Felani is a good player, lets buy and we shall definatly see changes come 2014.

  7. I vehemently disagree with this article! Felani is a good player, lets buy him and we shall definatly see changes come 2014.

  8. I disagree with this article. In my opinion, fellaini will be good signing for united than Thiago or Strootman by two factor: first, he had played in epl for a years, his knowledge about this league is better than Thiago or strootman. Thiago good at la liga, strootman good at eradivisie but will they good for epl what differrent character than la liga and eradivisie? Second, moyes is the man who found fellaini. It’s like ferguson who found Evans or fletcher. His knowledge about this player is 5 star, so do him. This article making by a fergie’s way in field. We don’t know about moyes’s. But if he wants to success he must doing it by his way not fergie’s way. Little changing will happen with united next season.

  9. Man Utd were run away winners in the premier league last season, so they are not exactly full of holes. That being said, Fellaini has been consistently one of the best midfielders in the premiership in recent years and the fact that he’s done that in an Everton shirt and not whilst being part of one of the elite clubs is testament to his ability.

    If there is an element missing in the Man Utd midfield it is defensive ability. Man Utd have sometimes (all be it rarely) dropped points to lower opposition and this is usually due to games becoming very physical and less technical. Man Utd don’t have strong midfields. something they have missed since the days of Roy Keane. And like Roy Keane, Fellaini their is more to his game. He’s creative, a threat going forward and has an eye for goal. Fellaini is also an immense aerial presence and he is not as slow as people think he is. The differences he provides to the midfield should be celebrated and I would consider bringing in a player like Gundogan more likely to take playing time away from Kagawa.

    The negative aspect is obviously the fact that Fellaini can’t keep his elbows to himself. If he can clean up his act then you have a terrific midfielder. If he can’t, you have a player that may embarrass you whilst wearing your team’s shirt. This is why I would never want players like Ashley Cole and Luis Suarez playing for my team. I’m not likening Fellaini to these two embarrassing characters but representing you club is not just about your quality of football.

    However I still believe him to be the best player mentioned in the article above and well worth the investment.

  10. I stopped reading it as soon as i read the article writers comment that said Cleverly n Anderson r so vital to the Man Utd team….i hope n pray that moyes does not agree n think along the same lines! Has who ever wrote it watched Anderson play? Cleverly has shown potential but the jury is still out in my eyes! But one thing i know neither currently wud get in a top European side or put fear into other teams! Get with it mate, love truly can b blind…wow!

  11. We don’t need him, we have Phil Jones we can use as a CDM and i wont classify him an attacking mid. I think there are better options like Fab, Thiago, strootman. He is a direct mid, that’s how they neat us last year by lifting the ball into him and he used his height and ability to his advantage over Carrick and the rest but we don’t play like that. Our play is mostly on the ground. IMO, he doesn’t fit our style of play, but that’s not saying he isn’t good,enough for a team like Liverpool, but pls not United.

  12. Not sure really but the facts are that he is a proven performer in the Premier league and he can play in any position in the central midfield or up front and score goals from all these positions and is still to hit his peak, that is why he will not come cheap but with Moyes at the helm now if he wants to move to one of the big clubs then I am sure it will be with us.

  13. I am a belgian. Its what style you will play. If you need more physical and more presence, than Felliani is the man. In the Belgian team he is not so good, because its defficult for him to play with technical players like Hazard De Bruyne and Chadli. When you need to play with balls dropped in the sixteen, he is almost everytime a danger, I have seen liverpool / Man United this afternoon, in the sixteen, he is one of the best. A box to box player. He is not a Hazard or an Oscar and also not complitary with such kind of players. I don’t speak of Strooteman. He can’t play defensive, like whole te Erdivision in Holland.

  14. Yup (bored face)… I’ve a read a similar article about the cons of Madrid signing Ronaldo for such a huge fee in ’09 … And one last season of how signing an almost 30-year-old Van Persie was a “big” mistake… Your article is too much based subjective theory on tactics and too much FIFA video games influence… For me Fellaini is a great signing and if he fails to flourish in the middle of the park he can close the gap at CB

  15. …and so the original poster of the article has proven to be bang on. Even the Kagawa reference, those of you who thought otherwise……….read it again.

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