Only in England can a defensive midfielder be used as an auxiliary forward and then be hailed as one of the best players in the country for his ability to win the ball in the air or hold up play.
There was once a time when Marouane Fellaini was talked up as a possible target for Real Madrid following a good run of form. The all-purpose, apparently, midfield juggernaut was seen as an individual to add some British steel into the heart of the Madrid team, despite the current Manchester United midfielder being from Belgium.
I never saw all the fuss. Yes he’s a good player and he’ll win you a game in the midst of heavy rain, blood and thunder; he’ll even throw in a pirouette for good measure. But as a leading midfielder (or forward) for a top club in England or Europe? I’m not sure.
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But here comes more pro-United propaganda, this time from Henning Berg who says Fellaini can be as big a star as Eric Cantona. Fellaini, who prior to deadline day was seen as the backup target to the backups. If Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera and probably Sami Khedira failed to arrive, Fellaini would be the last option. We know that, United know that, the football world isn’t as stupid as clubs may wish to believe, and yet here comes the line about how good the player may eventually be. Cantona? How about we throw in a few comparisons to Andres Iniesta? After all, the Spaniard is untested in the Premier League, where Fellaini has been a colossus and game changer every week. Yes.
This isn’t to say Fellaini is a bad player – he clearly isn’t. Though at the same time he isn’t the midfield magician United needed, and I really don’t believe, despite his good performances over the years, that at 25 he warrants a tag as one of the league’s best. He’s inconsistent, he’s technically not that great, and if anything, this signing on deadline day says a lot about where David Moyes plans to go with his tactical direction in the near future.
Under Moyes at Everton, Fellaini was used regularly behind the striker. Is it likely that the United manager will stray from an approach that has been largely successful in the past? The question here is whether Fellaini will complement Robin van Persie or completely derail the Dutchman’s momentum. United need another body in the midfield, but will we see Fellaini used alongside either Michael Carrick or Tom Cleverley? As with most topics of discussion around United, how will Fellaini’s signing affect Shinji Kagawa?
But the point is that Fellaini isn’t anywhere near to being the figure Cantona was. With the Frenchman, it wasn’t just about footballing ability but character and charisma too. It goes hand-in-hand with becoming the next Cantona, or whoever else, and one simply can’t live without the other.
Henning Berg was probably trying to create some good feeling following what was certainly an underwhelming signing. But it really wasn’t the best choice to compare Fellaini with a player like Cantona. Even to go on to say Fellaini’s popularity could equal that of the Frenchman is a little out there. Fellaini is 25, so we could see something unlikely in the coming years. Though by the same line of thinking, at 25, I think we know more or less what to expect.
Can Marouane Fellaini really be Manchester United’s new Eric Cantona?
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