For much of his Manchester United career, Marouane Fellaini has been forced to endure the displeasure of being painted as the poster-boy of the failings of the post-Alex Ferguson era, something inherently linked with his arrival in the first transfer window following the Scot’s retirement and Louis van Gaal’s unexpected dependence on the Belgium international as his laborious style of football left the Old Trafford faithful increasingly disillusioned.
It’s certainly true that there are more aesthetic central midfielders than the 6 foot 4 battering ram, not least including one of his direct predecessors in United’s engine room – a certain Paul Scholes. But amid the constant criticism and debates over whether he should be at a club famed for their attacking verve, Jose Mourinho has never lost faith in the former Everton man – unsurprisingly considering he’s pretty much the perfect Mourinho player – and with Paul Pogba injured, the Portuguese is starting to reap the rewards.
Indeed, after stepping in for the Frenchman against FC Basel earlier this month, Fellaini went on to grab a goal and an assist from the bench in the Champions League. And upon facing Crystal Palace last Saturday, it was once again the 76-cap international who delivered, netting an impressive brace while asserting his authority over the engine room with four tackles, three interceptions and three successful aerial duels. Likewise, far from the cumbersome adjectives Fellaini is often associated with, he completed 90% of his passes against Palace.
Perhaps Fellaini will never be the most gracious footballer to ever set foot on the Old Trafford pitch, but he showed against Crystal Palace just why so many United managers have turned to him in times of difficulty and just how important he could be for the Red Devils’ title ambitions this season.