In September 2013, Manchester United signed Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini to a five year contract in a £27.5 million deadline deal – Fellaini was reunited with his old manager, David Moyes, so many were saying that it would be a good fit. Manchester United has been lacking in the midfield department, and many fans were hoping the Belgian would help remedy the problem. But, as we know, things haven’t turned out too well.
It’s quite the mystery why Fellaini is struggling – his form was fantastic in his later years with Everton, especially in 2012. In November 2012, he was named the Premier League Player of the Month. Fellaini actually scored the only goal in Everton’s season opener against Manchester United that season, and he continued his form by scoring against other top teams like Arsenal and Manchester City. He ended as Everton’s top goal scorer, netting 12 goals in total (within all competitions) – impressive for a midfielder. We’re not talking about some random player that’s been picked up off the street – the afro-donned Fellaini is a very respectable player, and has earned almost 50 caps with the Belgium International team. Moyes always praised Fellaini for his skill:
“He is a player with great ability and strength and I think he will make a real difference to our squad.”
It’s clear why Moyes wanted to sign him – Fellaini’s got good strength and skill, and his flexibility to play further up (as he did with Everton, playing as the second striker in the 2008-2009 season).
It should have been a natural fit, but why has the contrary happened?
Many claim that Fellaini simply isn’t ‘Manchester United quality’, but that’s a pretty lax response. At the heart of Fellaini’s struggles, I believe, is the fact that he’s actually playing out of position. Moyes has thrown him into lineup to play along side Michael Carrick, meaning he has to watch plays develop whilst he stays back to be more a defensive, holding midfielder – this is quite the contrary to what he did at Everton, where Fellaini played much further out, receiving crosses from an offensively potent Leighton Baines to head the ball into the net. Even if Fellaini was playing a more attacking role, I doubt he’d do much better as he’d be receiving crosses from Frenchman Patrice Evra, who is statiscally much better on the defensive end.
Manchester United believe (and rightly so) that Wayne Rooney and rising star Adnan Januzaj are better fitted to the attacking roles, so Fellaini is shifted backwards. This change in pace has obviously had an impact on him, and he now has to learn to play with defenders and midfielders rather than forwards and wingers – the overall playstyle is more possessive that the direct approach Everton used last season.
Fellaini’s also fallen back into the habit of making untidy challenges and generally have a bad attitude overall, highlighted by his sending off against Real Sociedad back in December. In Everton, during his debut season, Fellaini was booked 10 times in 17 games, which culminated in him attending a personal hearing with Keith Hackett (England’s chief referee) to avoid a fairly lengthy suspension. In fact, in 2012, Fellaini gave away the most fouls of any player.
The simple truth is that Marouane Fellaini is not a world class player, and Marouane Fellaini is definitely not a player that’s worth over £27 million. The gap left by Paul Scholes is obviously a big one, so big in fact that I believe any player that tries to fit into that role will receive a steady flow of criticism. I do still have faith in the Belgian though, and I’m sure he’ll get back to form in due course.
For now though, Manchester United haven’t found that missing link.
Poor choice in music, but what can I say?