When Marouane Fellaini was ruled out for a couple of months last season following surgery on his wrist he had already been written off as one of the worst transfer acquisitions since Eric Djemba-Djemba. During a summer that saw David Moyes take the helm at Old Trafford following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, the signing of Marouane Fellaini represented Ed Woodward’s last ditch attempt to buy a player in a transfer window which saw the club miss out on a number of key targets. I could not see any merit in the acquisition of a player for £27.5 million who should have been signed for a fraction of that fee had the deal been completed earlier. It was not that I disliked Fellaini, in fact he was a player I had watched a great deal, he was a handful for opposition defences whilst at Everton and he’d even caused Rio and Vidic a few problems on his visits to Old Trafford. What I couldn’t see was where Fellaini would fit in at United, after all he wasn’t the game changing midfielder we so desperately needed.
What followed for Fellaini was a season of disdain from a manager lacking the confidence to play him in the right position and a crowd who couldn’t see his value. There were boos and there were jeers and the media wrote their headlines. Marouane Fellaini was made a ‘scapegoat’ for the failure of Manchester United under Moyes, he was written off by nearly everyone I know and he was written off by me.
Then came the summer and enter Louis van Gaal, the grandmaster of keep-ball football. All the talk coming out of the media was around the likely summer signings of Vidal, Fabregas, Kroos, or Carvahlo. But instead United opted for Ander Herrera and Daley Blind as the spark to light up a midfield which had looked pedestrian under Moyes. Meanwhile Louis van Gaal took his time reviewing the talent he already had in that area, Tom Cleverley left on loan to Villa, Michael Carrick had impressed in pre season but picked up an injury, Darren Fletcher left for West Brom in January and Fellaini kept on grafting.
Now the Afro may provide a clue, but Fellaini isn’t your typical Louis van Gaal player. It took a great deal of time for him to be picked regularly by the Dutchman. It wasn’t until the defeat at Leicester City when LVG remarked in a post match interview that United needed to be more “physical” in midfield that the Belgian began to get a regular run in the side. Just 7 months later and Fellaini has made 21 appearances for United scoring 5 goals and none more crucial that his goal in the derby.
Fellaini was up against Yaya Touré, but he wasn’t daunted by his opponent in any way. In fact you could say he had one of the best midfielders in the league in his pocket all game. The Belgian’s positioning proved key to United’s victory, he was involved in a lot of the build up play, which ultimately lead to United’s 4 goals, creating space for the likes of Young, Blind and Herrera. It also earned him 42% and MOTM in United’s twitter-sphere curtesy of the Official Manchester United website.
Ashley Young, who provided an assist for Fellaini’s goal had lots of praise for the Belgian’s performance, speaking on MUTV and reported on the Official Manchester United website he said;
“On his day, he’s unplayable. I don’t think Yaya Toure wanted to be tracking back, he wanted to be at the other end of the pitch but he had that job to do on Felli.”
This time last year, had you told me Marouane Fellaini would come out on top in a midfield battle against Yaya Toure I would have told you to f*** off and to stop having me on. But to do what Fellaini has done this season has taken a lot of guts and shows you the type of resilient footballer he is and I suppose that’s why he opted for United in the first place. Fellaini believed he could be a success at the club even when we he was being doubted and it’s just that, his bravery, that impresses me most of all.
How far Louis van Gaal’s side can go this season questionable, but one things for sure Fellaini’s fortunes are definitely on the up. The manager deserves a lot of credit for the way he has utilised Fellaini, but the player deserves the plaudits for standing up and proving people wrong.