Marouane Fellaini is set to miss up to a month of football after injuring his knee in Belgium’s World Cup Qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday night.
It was certainly a risk for Fellaini to be involved, having previously missed last week’s training sessions with a slight knock, yet former Everton boss Roberto Martinez opted to play him from the start.
Despite already qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia, Fellaini’s presence in the starting line-up has certainly – and rightly so – caused uproar amongst Manchester United fans.
Small consolation can be found in learning that the bushy-haired midfielder avoided damaging his cruciate ligaments as was first feared but this is certainly a blow to a player who had found form of late.
After replacing the also injured Paul Pogba against FC Basel in last month’s Champions League opener, Fellaini netted the first goal of a 3-0 win to settle United down before half-time.
His impact led to him to be included from the start in crunch fixtures against Everton and down at Southampton, where he aided Nemanja Matic in the midfield, keeping clean sheets in both, including a resolute defensive display to see out the latter stages against the Saints.
In a challenge that incensed manager Jose Mourinho, Shane Long was lucky to escape maximum punishment via an incident that caused Fellaini initial pain.
Such is the Belgian’s commitment to the cause, the 29-year-old ploughed on but missed the following trip to Moscow to take on CSKA.
That contest saw a two-man midfield operate in front of a back three with wing-backs either side, but Fellaini was fit enough to start last weekend’s fixture against Crystal Palace.
Adding to August’s sealer against Leicester City, Fellaini bagged a brace as the Old Trafford faithful chanted his name from the terraces.
In Mourinho, he has found a manager who has placed his utmost trust in the bruising powerhouse, where his professionalism, work rate and attitude has never been in question, and so this injury will not go down well with Mourinho.
With youngsters like Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker available to monitor, not to mention the experienced Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne, Fellaini’s inclusion seems a daft one for all concerned.
AS Roma’s Radja Nainggolan is also one of the best in his position, yet his fallout with Martinez could lead to such a huge talent missing next year’s event in Eastern Europe despite another option on the roster to cover what should’ve been Fellaini’s absence during this international break.
By no means should United receive special treatment when it comes to National Team managers resting personnel, but when already nursing a niggle, top spot secured and alternate options to use, this was an unnecessary injury to gain and squad member to risk so close to Saturday’s huge clash against rivals Liverpool.
With Pogba and Michael Carrick also likely to be sidelined, Matic and Ander Herrera are expected to start in Merseyside.
Most likely was the three man midfield before this injury, with Fellaini expected to continue his run of having started every game at Liverpool since his 2013 arrival.
That run has seen two wins, one draw and an unbeaten run in the league at Anfield during that period.
Fellow international teammate Romelu Lukaku was called up by Martinez but thankfully left out against Bosnia due to his minor knock, but it remains to be seen whether the striker will start their final qualifier against Cyprus on Tuesday evening.
Another to be wary of long-term injury is Phil Jones, who withdrew from the England squad and is expected to return for his club at the weekend.
The latter examples will hopefully show the benefit of missing international fixtures when not possible, with the decision to play Fellaini baffling to say the least with the plethora of options available to the former Wigan Athletic boss.
Scenarios like this are exactly why many United fans have fallen out of love with the international game, whose club now head to their biggest tussle of the season with just two fit central midfielders available.