He has had his critics since signing for Manchester United after he followed David Moyes to Manchester from Goodison Park. A lot of it has been fair as at times the criticism is for good reason but the player remains at Manchester United. So what does he bring to the table? It must be substantial because it was not only Moyes who was happy with the Belgian internationals contribution as Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have utilised Marouane Fellaini regularly. After a fantastic performance in the Champions League opener Felliani will be looking to build on it with Paul Pogba sidelined.
Before the case is made for Fellaini’s influential presence at United it is important to mention why he attracts criticism. The former Everton man makes some strange decisions that baffle fans and pundits. Whether it be making a needless tackle two minutes after coming on to give away a penalty or his evident love for controversy with silly disciplinary outburst he attracts negative headlines. Off the pitch controversy also follows the Belgian star which negatively affect his public image. If all this is added to the style of football he plays, which it would be difficult to describe as playing ‘the beautiful game’, it becomes clear why his reputation is such.
The fact remains – there is not one other player at the top level of European football who is anything like Fellaini. His style is unique. It may be primitive in its nature but used in the correct way it is useful. If you look around the United squad Mourinho has added height in the central midfield position. The signing of Pogba last summer and Nemanja Matic this summer increased the size in the middle of the park. Fellaini uses his height much better than the two new signings. Pogba brings great vision and drive from midfield and Matic has a calming influence and quality defensive skills. Other midfield options in the squad include the smaller Ander Herrera has a versatile game but cannot do the job the big Belgian can. The ageing Michael Carrick is also an option in the position but it seems he will not feature heavily this season.
Fellaini is an aerial threat both in the box and helping the team move the ball up the field quickly if the deeper players are under pressure. With Romelu Lukaku claiming the main striker position in the team having him and Fellaini as targets gives two players to hit if the goalkeeper or defender need to. The United players ability in the box also creates a chaos for opposition defenders. It feels more threatening to have Fellaini in the mix from set pieces and he scores and wins headers often. The midfielder has played 138 times for Manchester United scoring 17 times and creating 10 for his team mates.
Fellaini is a high intensity player and his defensive skills are straight to the point. He does not have the cultured defensive skills of new midfield partner Matic, the Belgian midfielder goes in hard and does not mind leaving his opponent on the ground if it’s necessary. You could the United number 27 as a bull in a china shop, little thought goes into how he operates in the middle of the park but he chases the ball and shows great desire for the cause.
One part of Fellaini’s game that is underrated is his first touch and ball control. Because he looks relatively clumsy due to his frame (similar to Peter Crouch in this way) it often goes unnoticed that he has these skills. In fact a fan made video likening him to the great Zinedine Zidane circulated.
It is not easy settling into a new team and when you come for a huge fee it just adds more and more pressure. This situation faced Lukaku this summer. Of course having Pogba at the club, the two are by all accounts good friends, helps. But having a player of the same nationality also aids the settling in process. This is another reason Fellaini is key to the squad. Considering he also made the same switch Lukaku did in terms of clubs he can also help United’s new goal getter adapt to life at a bigger club. The pair will have played together for their national team as Fellaini has been used regularly representing Belgium 79 times scoring 16 times.
All in all Fellaini provides a service at Manchester United. It may not be the most attractive kind of football the legendary club has ever seen but it gets the job done. He will get into trouble, he will get into spats with opponents and he will do things on the football pitch which makes everyone viewing the game scratch their head. But what he will do is give you 100% every game and use his unique skill set to cause problems for his opposition. Love him. Hate him. One thing is definite. Fellaini is a United player and an important one at that.
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