In this edition of SEA View: Matthew, Jason and Bob discuss Marouane Fellaini and his form this season.
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Manchester United are starting to look, well, more united again, with four straight wins confirming that Louis van Gaal is starting to make his mark at Old Trafford.
Bizarrely, this is all happening at a time when United are experiencing their worst defensive crisis that I can ever remember, with wingers Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia filling it at full back for the last two games.
Michael Carrick, fresh from a lengthy injury layoff, was forced to fill in at centre back once and raw teenagers Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair have been relied upon regularly to start at centre back.
This has been an excellent display of United’s character and team ethos under Van Gaal, which has been typified by a return to form and prominence of Marouane Fellaini.
Vilified and labelled a monumental flop last season, and unfairly scapegoated as a symbol of David Moyes’ failures, the Belgian has been a breath of fresh air this season and has returned to the unmarkable, uncompromising menace that he proved to be to Premier League defenders when he first arrived at Everton.
It’s odd how much he has recovered from last season because, to me, I still don’t see where exactly he fits in. He’s not a typical midfielder and he’s not a link between midfield and attack, we have better flair players who can perform that role.
Whatever his best use, he’s provided a real fillip for Van Gaal in what has been a difficult opening to his Old Trafford tenure.
He’s not exactly the missing piece of the jigsaw, but at a period when United are in alien territory following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, the odd man out last season is proving to be the man for all occasions this campaign.
Jason (writer and moderator)
I was a big critic of Fellaini last season and he became a laughing stock among some fans culminating in some booing when he came on as a sub and ironic cheers whenever he did something well during a pre-season game with Valencia, the ironic cheers possibly became proper cheers after a while as he kept doing good things, he later scored the winning goal of the game, this game for me was the first sign that maybe there was a place for him at the club under Van Gaal. It was only 15 minutes though and it was only a friendly, a lot more was needed to prove people wrong. An injury then ruled him out until he made a comeback in October, had he not picked the injury up, he may have left the club before the transfer window closed. Luckily he didn’t leave as he has been very good for us since returning from injury in October, where he came on as a sub and started the comeback against West Brom, since then has confidence has risen with every game and he scored his 2nd goal for us against Stoke the other night. But it’s not just his goal return that has improved, last season he wasn’t even doing what was expected of a physically strong midfielder, this season he’s doing more. Van Gaal is getting more out of him than a man who managed Fellaini for 5 years did last season, long may it continue.
Truth is, Fellaini was no worse than our other midfielders last season. He had good performances against lesser opposition, but was woeful against top teams, just like many of his team mates. He was unfortunate to be the only signing in a shambolic transfer window and possibly bore the brunt of fans’ frustration. He was unfancied and the transfer fee did not help. He was not the top tier signing that was promised or the player to ease anxiety following Fergie’s retirement. None of which was his fault.
So, why is he showing his Everton form this season? For me, it’s combination of several factors: Playing in a three-man midfield; confidence; no apparent niggling injuries; not carrying the burden of being the sole signing. Other players have initially struggled in their first season at a bigger club then go on to have a successful career. After all, he has been a top performer in the Premier League since joining Everton in 2008.
He has played a significant role in improving stability and defensive organisation throughout the team by providing a presence in midfield. It’s no coincidence the team has only conceded 5 goals in 585 minutes since his introduction against WBA, which has included fixtures against Chelsea, City and Arsenal.
Whether Fellaini is the player to propel the team to the next level is up for debate, but at the moment he is a key figure in laying down the foundations for the Van Gaal era.