There were many pleasing aspects about Manchester United’s victory over Tottenham last weekend; their most impressive display of the season. But perhaps the most pleasing part was the performance of their Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini.
Heavily criticised at times since his arrival at Old Trafford at the beginning of last season, it looked increasingly unlikely he was going to be able to make a name for himself at the Red Devils. However, not only is he fast becoming one of Louis van Gaal’s most important players as the club continue their push for Champions League qualification, he is slowly but surely beginning to win over the fans.
Following his big-money move from Everton in 2013, Fellaini struggled to adapt to life at his new club, burdened by the £27.5m price tag David Moyes had convinced the United board to fork out for him. At the end of a disappointing summer in the transfer market; having missed out on a number of high profile signings, Fellaini’s purchase was seen as an act of desperation. It was difficult to see where he was going to fit in, how he was going to fit in with the team’s style of play, and ultimately at times why they bought him in the first place.
Having struggled to gain a consistent run in the side, he was employed in a deeper role in midfield, and looked well out of depth in a United shirt. And once Moyes departed and was replaced by Van Gaal, it looked like just a matter of time before Fellaini would be moved on.
However despite speculation surrounding his future, the 27-year-old kept his head down and continued to work hard, in the hope he might be able to salvage his career at United. And credit to him, his patience seems to be paying off.
Since his manager entrusted him with a more attacking role in the side, his importance to the team has continued to grow. With injury to Robin van Persie, and Radamel Falcao lacking form, Fellaini has built up a great partnership with Wayne Rooney, something that flourished last weekend, with both players getting on the score sheet.
He is a constant threat when around the opposition’s box, and not just with his head as he showed by netting a wonderfully taken goal with his left foot to open the scoring. Playing as part of a three in midfield, he has the freedom to get forward, where United can exploit his effectiveness. But his work rate in tracking back and helping defend, make him even more important to the team, highlighting just what an important player he is becoming as the season reaches an exciting climax.
Fellaini received a standing ovation when he was substituted in the dying stages of the game, something which will do his confidence the world of good. He may not be your typical United player, but his effectiveness cannot be doubted, and under Van Gaal, he seems to relishing his new role alongside Rooney having established himself as a key member of the first team in recent weeks.
His performances between now and the end of the season could play a crucial role in United’s bid for a top-four finish, and if he can continue to replicate his performances from his time at Everton; where he was often unplayable, United could have a great weapon at their disposal.