Should Louis van Gaal cash in on Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini?
The Belgian endured a nightmare debut campaign after following David Moyes out of Everton in a £27.5million deal on transfer deadline day last September, failing to find his best form and struggling to stay fit.
After the sacking of his ally Moyes in April, Fellaini’s future appears increasingly bleak. The Express claim that incoming manager Louis van Gaal will allow the 26-year-old to leave if he can recoup £15million. United might even do business at just £10million.
The Dutchman will officially take control after leading the Netherlands at the World Cup, but that hasn’t stopped him having a say in the club’s early moves in the transfer market.
Patrice Evra has signed a new one-year deal to remain at Manchester United, a big-money move for Southampton’s Luke Shaw is progressing and a deal for Bayern Munich’s Toni Kroos appears to have fallen through. Deciding the fate of Fellaini is sure to be high on Van Gaal’s list of priorities.
Among the criticisms levelled at the former Standard Liege man over the last nine months were a poor work-rate, almost zero goal threat and a lack of bite in midfield. For a player who was United’s fourth most expensive signing ever when he put pen to paper, he simply didn’t justify his price-tag.
Fellaini failed to find the back of net at all last season, despite making 16 Premier League appearances and playing five times in the Champions League. He actually scored more for Everton, having netted an extra-time winner against Stevenage in the Capital One Cup before moving to Manchester.
Often deployed behind a lone striker during his last season at Goodison Park, Fellaini bagged 11 goals, created 40 chances and recorded five assists in the top flight. In 2013/14, he made five scoring opportunities for his team-mates, only one of which was converted.
Although the differences in Fellaini’s attacking output can be attributed to his deep-lying position at United and the fact he made around half as many top-flight appearances in red as he did in blue, there’s no denying that the Belgium international looked a shadow of the player who often dominated games for the Toffees.
Fellaini’s pass completion rose from 79% during his final season at Everton to 88% at United and he came out on top in 60% of his take-ons compared to 44%, but that’s where improvements end.
The 6ft 4in midfielder only won 43% of his 68 tackles last season compared to 63% during his final season on Merseyside. He also won a lower percentage of his headed duels (52% to 60%) and hit the target less often (44% to 54%).
Games seemed to pass Fellaini by last season. Instead of using his size and strength to control the middle of midfield and bring United’s more gifted players into play, the ex-Anderlecht youngster continually struggled to make his mark.
Fellaini clearly has more to give – as his last season at Everton shows – but his most effective performances in blue tended to come when he was played in a No 10 role. Unfortunately for him, there’s no chance he’ll get the same opportunity next season.
Van Gaal has been tasked with bringing attractive, effective football back to United after Moyes’ disastrous reign, but although lumping the ball up to Fellaini might produce results in some games, it certainly won’t appease the Old Trafford faithful. Also, with Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata both more than capable of playing behind Robin van Persie, competition is fierce.
Under a manager who knew and trusted him, Fellaini failed to impress in a traditional central midfield role. A revival under Van Gaal isn’t completely out of the question but it certainly seems unlikely, particularly given that he could be relegated to the bench if Van Gaal lands his top targets this summer.
Fellaini’s fate will be decided by the new manager over the next three months, although his first season suggests that he may not be cut out to fill the boots of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane in the heart of United’s midfield.
Making a £12.5million loss on a player signed less than a year ago would be hard to stomach, but watching Fellaini struggle for another season might well be even worse.