In the wake of Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal, courtesy of a winner from Marouane Fellaini in the dying embers of Arsene Wenger’s last visit to Old Trafford as Arsenal manager, fans clambered in their numbers to pile criticism on the man who secured the three points for United.
Marouane Fellaini’s relationship with the Red Devil’s faithful has been a sour one ever since his deadline day move from Everton under the tutelage of his former boss, David Moyes. However, the Belgian has been criticised as a marker of the failure of Moyes’ forgetful season at Old Trafford, with Fellaini his only marquee signing of that summer.
The midfielder undoubtedly struggled in his debut campaign at United, but was one of numerous key players who failed to meet expectations in the season United finished 7th in the Premier League.
But, since then, the tall midfielder has proven his worth, despite the constant criticism he receives from the fans in Manchester for being a Plan B that is an indictment of how far behind the club have fallen behind the elite in Europe.
Whilst Fellaini is not a conventional Manchester United midfielder; not one who is renown for his long-range efforts, or for his astute vision or for his tenacious tackling in midfield. Rather he has become synonymous with United in search of an equaliser, but one he has proven to be effective at.
Under both Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, the 30-year-old has found his way into being a considerable asset for one of the Premier League’s top sides, after previously having been seen as a player in the shop window.
Under Van Gaal, the former Evertonian found his way to be a useful part of a dynamic attacking trio that saw the club earn plaudits for their results against the top six to earn their Champions League place, and the midfielder is proving his worth to Mourinho now, as a man worth retaining.
Despite having turned 30 this season, it does seem as though the midfielder would be a sizeable investment for someone who would primarily be utilised as a substitute to alter United’s style of play.
But, the principal criticism has been against how he does not fit the criteria of an archetypal United midfielder, and to have a Plan B is an indication of a weak top side. Whilst Pep Guardiola has openly admitted to having a single plan in mind to use in order to garner all three points, there are very few sides who operate in such way or who have the craftsmanship and the talent to pull of this philosophy so successfully.
And for all the plaudits City have been afforded for their philosophy that transcends the normal style of play in England, it is unfair to hold Mourinho’s United, a side who have qualified for the Champions League via the top four just once since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, must already have completed their evolution to a side who produces displays of such attacking verve.
Besides, Fellaini has proven his ability to operate as a viable goalscoring weapon for the club since his arrival. The Belgian has 20 goals in just four seasons at the club, a feat matched by no other United midfielder.
Whilst there remain question marks of his worth in terms of wages, how could anyone truly argue against the idea that Fellaini has proven his value to United on a number of occasions?
United are far from the finished product, and whilst there are calls for the displays City have produced – their success has won them little progress in Europe. This steely determination is being bred at Old Trafford, and Fellaini is a part of that.