Marouane Fellaini has made his critics swallow their words
I think we’ve waited long enough.
It’s time we banished into the wilderness any notions of Marouane Fellaini’s Manchester United career being an abject failure.
In a week which saw Louis van Gaal transition from aging philosopher to born-again genius and Juan Mata explode from the bench to write himself in to United folklore, it’s the fuzzy-headed Belgian with the velcro chest that has to come away with at least a hefty chunk of the peculiarly fickle plaudits coming United’s way.
Signed by David Moyes for the best part of 30 million pounds, Fellaini, despite an injury-plagued campaign, quickly became a symbol for all that was wrong with the Scotsman’s ill-fated and short-lived reign at Old Trafford. A large afro-headed stick to be wielded by opposition fans and pundits alike.
But the Belgian has slowly found steady ground for his considerable feet to stomp on under van Gaal. And once the realisation that his best position was a more advanced one arrived, Fellaini’s best form, not seen his days at Goodison Park, soon followed.
It would be easy to say for the less committed viewer of United’s games to declare that two good performances does not a successful transfer make. However to those who have kept a keen vigil toward his form, this has been some time in the making. The signs have been there, but for United’s wider voyage of tactical discovery, it may have happened sooner.
Operating on the left of a midfield-three, he has been given license to get forward and terrorise defences. We know what he’s about, we know his size and physicality, his prowess in the air. We know that when the ball is delivered within around 10 feet of him, a black hole positioned on his chest uses gravity to pull the ball in to softly nestle on his pecs like a new-born being laid in its cot. It almost defies the laws of physics.
But perhaps what we didn’t know about was his tactical nous, his ability to perform the subtle nuances of the game. The positional play on show in the last couple of games, as he’s slithered between defenders and exposed back lines has been nothing short of a wonder. The goal against Tottenham Hotspurs left people in shock, the run, the finish. Who is this man and what has he done with a man almost completely made of elbows?
The manager of course deserves some credit, it’s perhaps no coincidence that these displays have come when United have clicked in almost every aspect elsewhere on the pitch. But the Dutchman had eyes for that six foot four frame almost from the start. It’s certainly some turnaround from a summer in which many expected him to quietly slip away to pastures less stylish.
Now of course the challenge, not just for Fellaini, but United, is to carry this form on in to a tough run of fixtures and to secure fourth. A goal that could set in motion a fast track back to the top for the Old Trafford club.