When we have a good look at Machester United’s bench, one man there who is criminally underrated is Marouane Fellaini. The 30-year-old Belgian international arrived at the theatre of dreams under David Moyes’ reign. However, his presence did bear significant fruits under Mourinho. However, a player who has always seemed to be chosen over Fellaini, is a Spaniard from Bilbao, who is now a “Devil.” Though Ander Herrera has been a great player to watch for United, Fellaini, on the other hand, has not got as many chances as Herrera after his arrival; Matic has gone on record to praise his dedication and hard work in training sessions. Here are a few reasons why the Belgian should be preferred to the Spaniard:
Physically strong: When Sir Alex Fergusson was the manager, he used to arrange kickboxing sessions for his players for this particular reason. Unlike Italian Football, the English Premier League has physicality as a very central figure; thereby giving the 194 cm midfielder an edge in both height as well as weight.
Extraordinary with set-pieces: Marouane Fellaini has an exquisite sense of timing as far as runs during set-pieces are concerned, which makes it difficult to mark him during the same, and above all, he has a head which can win matches, LITERALLY! It is this quality of his headers which makes him a master penetrator of defences, as good set-pieces can destroy the best of defences.
A great mix of offence and defence: One of the best attacking defensive midfielders in recent times has been Arturo Vidal. Though it would be an exaggeration to compare Fellaini to him, if Vidal is considered a reference to the mixture of offence and defence, then the Belgian must be placed higher than Herrera. He uses his physicality well in covering the back wall as well as penetrating the opposition’s defence with towering headers.
A Commanding midfield presence: With a much higher shooting accuracy and a clearance rate of 2.28 clearances per match compared to 0.991 of Herrera, Marouane Fellaini has the ability to fluctuate the pace of the match and can work accordingly to accelerate or decelerate the team. Herrera, on the other hand, does try to run into the final third of the opponent but often fails to recover, and is often taken down owing to the fact that he is relatively lighter on his feet. This might very well, be the reason why the Red Devils have won more matches with him on the field than his Spanish teammate.
Then, the solution? And how?
Manchester United didn’t have much activity in the transfer window, but they did manage to pull off an achievement of getting an attack-minded midfielder, who showed what he’s capable of at Shakhtar already. Along with Fred, the runs, through balls and overall presence of Pogba is also a major plus for the Red Devils. The Frenchman has shown, just how remarkable he could be time and again, be it in the World Cup, or during his previous spell at Juventus, and still continues to amaze.
The position of defensive midfielder would be occupied by Fellaini, primarily for 2 reasons:
#1: Fellaini acts very tactfully when positioned as a holding midfielder, giving him the liberty to play as an extra defender, with a 5-3-2 formation, with Lingard playing back as an attacking midfielder, Sanchez as a Secondary striker and Lukaku, the No9 position. Herrera, on the other hand, though works better as a defensive midfielder, his role as a defender was quite unimpressive, with the match against Spurs the most recent example. Switching to an ultra-defensive approach becomes all the more easy, which suits Mourinho’s approach to a game (Park the Bus right here) when the Belgian and the Frenchman solidify the defence.
#2: Fellaini gives ample time to attacking midfielders with the ball, playing the role of a feeder. The most recent example would be his match against Japan where Dortmund‘s Witsel was seen scuttling across, giving De Bruyne ample time and space to make his runs, whereas Fellaini fed him the balls. Moreover, his height also adds much more to the probability of scoring than Herrera.
If Manchester United work with this formation, with this particular trio, a perfect attack with a solid defence would not be difficult to achieve, given the proper evolution of chemistry. A common question which arrives at this juncture is, why is the team so attack oriented? Well, Liverpool has been a great example to illustrate the fact how a vicious attack can work beautifully with a relatively weaker defence. Here, with not much activity in the transfer window, this seems to be the best shot for the Red Devils, and regarding the contention for a spot between Herrera and Fellaini, the latter has been relatively better under José Mourinho.