Marouane Fellaini: A Redemption Story
Thibaut Courtois may have picked up the Man of the Match award in yesterday’s draw between Chelsea and Manchester United clash, but it was a fellow Belgian who was arguably United’s best player.
It might be too early to start talking about the redemption of Marouane Fellaini, but his performances this week have been a stark improvement on last season’s displays under David Moyes.
His first goal for the Red Devils, against West Brom on Monday, seemed to inject confidence in the midfielder, which had been shorn since his big-money move from Everton. His shackling yesterday of Cesc Fabregas was “fantastic” according to Robin Van Persie, a crucial job that stymied Chelsea’s main creative outlet.
The Dutch striker will also be grateful for Fellaini’s contribution to his last-minute equaliser – his header was only parried by Courtois into Van Persie’s path.
It seems the Belgian has finally found his role in the team, after a series of aimless displays last term. He adds a physicality to United’s midfield that the likes of Ander Herrera lack, with Louis Van Gaal hinting that these attributes could offer him a prolonged place in his first team plans. “In England you also need physical bodies in your team and Fellaini is one of these”, commented the United boss, having previously not considering Fellaini a “United type of player”.
It was obvious last season that the pressure of his much-derided £27 million transfer had affected him, and the club and fans were eager to offload him for a substantial loss during the summer. There was some interest from Napoli, with a fee of £15 million mooted, but an ankle injury before the transfer deadline scuppered any potential move. It may have been the best thing to happen to Fellaini.
Van Gaal has shown that he’s willing to give chances to everyone and, off the back of a decent World Cup, has decided to throw Fellaini a lifeline. The arrival of several big names this summer has also taken the spotlight off the midfielder, for whom expectations are low after his United career to date. While it’s only two games (well, one and a half) against West Brom and Chelsea, we finally seem to be seeing the Fellaini of Everton, the Fellaini of Belgium.
While it’s unlikely that United’s club shop will be ordering truckloads of afros just yet, United fans do seem to be warming to their previously much-maligned player.
It must be remembered that Fellaini has only started 13 league games for the club, and that previous big signings have also taken time to settle at the club. Andy Cole had an inauspicious start at Old Trafford, before going on to score a goal every other game for the club. Even Ronaldo took a season to two to bed in and shed a diving, show-pony tag that his initial performances had justified.
While Fellaini may not go down in the pantheon of legends at United, he does have an opportunity to turn around his career at the club and start justifying his big price tag. “I am happy here and the manager has shown trust in me,” he said earlier this week. If he can continue his recent run of form and not regress to the Fellaini of Moyes’ tenure, this trust may lead to an extended presence in United’s first-team plans.