Fellaini Reminds United Why They Bought Him

He might have been rendered 'unfashionable' even as they bought him, but Marouane Fellaini showed Manchester United why they bought him against West Brom, says Adam Bate...

Last Updated: 10/03/14 at 09:34 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Francesco Totti - The King Of Rome

13 comments

Francesco Totti is perhaps overlooked in England as one of European football's greats, despite our love of loyalty. He's all you could ever want in a footballer...

Arsenal Taking On Nervous Disposition

1 comments

There's no doubt that this Arsenal side is capable of beating this particular United side. But can they beat the nerves that saw them crumble against even Moyes' Reds?

All Articles

There is nothing new about hearing Manchester United supporters demand a midfield acquisition to transform their fortunes. It's been going on for years. In recruitment parlance, the job description remains the same but the person specification has changed.

With United struggling to impress under David Moyes there's a feeling that their approach is too rigid and lacks creativity. It's perceived as a one-dimensional system that compares unfavourably with the neat interchanges in confined spaces that others in Europe can offer.

A purposeful player in the mould of Ilkay Gundogan or Toni Kroos is the object of desire now. As a result, Marouane Fellaini was effectively out of fashion by the time he'd arrived. But Saturday's encouraging 3-0 win at West Brom was a reminder of just what the Belgian can offer a side.

On a difficult day, Fellaini can look like a clumsy blunderbuss of a player. But this was a good day. And Fellaini has his own qualities. He was a colossal figure in the centre of the park against the Baggies, dominating a home midfield that included the combative figure of Youssouf Mulumbu and - initially - Claudio Yacob.

Marouane Fellaini had more touches than anyone else in the win at West Brom

Fellaini was the pre-eminent figure. He had the most touches (98) and made the most passes (71) of anyone on the pitch. He was everywhere, covering 12.04km according to the Premier League tracking data. Again, that was more than anyone on either side. He was at the heart of things and gave his team a platform from which to play.

That's not always easy in a 4-4-2 formation, especially when up against a 4-5-1. The midfield two risk the prospect of being overrun in central areas. It's something Darren Fletcher was keen to point out in a widely publicised defence of United's midfielders on MUTV just last month.

"You have got to remember we play 4-4-2 a lot at United so it's not as if there are three in there and two can bomb forward," said Fletcher. "Most of the time, we are up against three other ones so we're having to cover. There is a lot more to it than simply saying we should be getting on the ball, creating and scoring goals. That is not really our role at Manchester United."

It is possible to debate the particular merits of that tactical approach but it is impossible to deny that Fellaini succeeded in doing the job asked of him on Saturday. With attacking players Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj all on the pitch, Fellaini's presence afforded them the opportunity to go out and play.

It was Michael Carrick who was awarded the honour of being the official man of the match but his partner was the key man and the statistics back that up. In addition to his passing, Fellaini's defensive contributions were significant. He won more aerial duels (four) than anyone else and made more interceptions (five) too.

Defensive contribution: Tackles (Blue) / Clearances (Red) / Interceptions (Yellow)

Only Rafael da Silva won more tackles than Fellaini, all of them in key areas near the United box, while Chris Smalling was the only player to better the big Belgian's number of defensive clearances. Fellaini was even involved in the build-up to Danny Welbeck's wonderful team goal that set the seal on an emphatic victory.

Of course, tougher challenges lie ahead than a West Brom team struggling for identity under Pepe Mel. Albion are yet to win under the Spaniard and no team in the country has fewer victories to their name this season. Even so, seeing Fellaini in this mood does raise questions as to whether the much-maligned midfielder has actually been underused this term.

The 26-year-old has made just five Premier League starts for United this season and has been on the bench more often than he's been in the starting XI. Indeed, that's precisely where he stayed for the goalless draw against Arsenal and the abject Champions League performance against Olympiakos. This display left you wondering whether Fellaini could have made a difference.

It's too early to expect a reassessment of Fellaini's long-term prospects at Manchester United. This was one strong performance against West Brom, after all. The summer spending will still occur. Midfielders will arrive. But any United supporters who'd already written off the £28million man from Everton might be tempted to change their mind.

Fellaini might not be the midfielder that Manchester United want anymore. But at least he's now shown everyone why he might still be needed once the Old Trafford overhaul gathers pace.

Adam Bate - follow him on Twitter.

A version of this article first appeared on Sky Sports.com.

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

C

isse should have appealed and explained that it was just a retaliation, just like Matic did. Apparently the FA are ok with retaliation.

Triangler
Cisse accepts FA charge

L

ove this guy. He's one of the few surviving players that I remember so vividly from Football Italia and Gazetta on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.

HarryBoulton
Francesco Totti - The King Of Rome

T

his is such a non-story it's unreal. I think we all know we are not playing to our potential yet and it hasn't yet clicked properly so he can celebrate or not celebrate all he wants.

GVMUFC
Van Gaal denies Giggs rift

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Mesut Ozil defended by Arsene Wenger after Paul Scholes criticism

Arsene Wenger claims Paul Scholes "would have loved to play with Mesut Ozil".

Football Association names Martin Glenn as its new chief executive

The Football Association has named Martin Glenn as its new chief executive.

Arsenal's Gabriel Paulista out for up to three weeks with hamstring injury

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Arsenal defender Gabriel has been ruled out for up to three weeks with a hamstring injury.

Mail Box

Is Sissoko's Neck Very Distinctive?

Moussa Sissoko features in a really quite bizarre Distinctive Physical Features XI while we have mails on sexism, Angel Di Maria and Francesco Totti. Ramdom.

Have To Trust Managers On Mata

It's all very well bemoaning the lack of action for Juan Mata, but we have to trust the judgement of Van Gaal and Mourinho. Plus Martinez Out, and Leicester are doomed...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company