Despite strong rumours linking Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini to Turkish giants Galatasaray, the Belgian was every bit as driven for the Red Devils in the facile 3-0 win in Oslo as he has been under Jose Mourinho last season.
Fellaini scored the opening goal—which, in a way, showcased what the 28-year old could do in an advanced position when he is delivered quality balls inside the box. More often than not, they have ended up in the back of the net.
Jose Mourinho categorically denied the idea of offloading Fellaini, who is on the last year of his contract, in the post-match press conference in a very typical Jose Mourinho fashion. But the transfer is expected to go through when the officials from Galatasaray arrive in Manchester on the following Monday to complete paperwork.
This has also conveniently coincided with United planning on signing Nemanja Matic from champions Chelsea for a fee hovering around £40m—that deal being just concluded earlier today. The Portuguese has decided to bring the Serbian 29-year old for the second time in three years in order to bolster the shield in front of the back four, in addition to improving on the existing options in the middle of the park.
Fellaini at Manchester United – More trouble than he is worth?
There was widespread relief when the first wave of news broke out that the Belgian was on his way to Turkey—with a fee close to being agreed, according to their sporting director Cenk Ergun. Fellaini was signed on deadline day in 2013 by David Moyes in one of the most panicky of panic moves that the club has made in the last decade in the transfer market, not to mention, as last resort, after flirting with the likes of Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas.
The Belgian did join United in high spirits carrying a hefty price tag and lofty expectations, on the back of his finest individual season for Everton amassing 11 goals (plus 5 assists) in the league from an attacking role just behind the forward. A combination of wrist and back injuries coupled with the gross ineptitude of David Moyes reduced his first season at United to a mere 12 starts and by the following June, he was faced with a new manager to play under.
Under Louis van Gaal, Fellaini had his moments. Primarily as number 10 yet without the technical prowess to create chances from thin air, Fellaini was often used as an excuse to hoof the ball up in the air, so that he could bring them down at will in the final third—creating mayhem which, on a few instances, led to goals.
He had a knack of being on the score-sheet in vital circumstances in the two years under the Dutchman. Enter March 2015, when United had to accumulate enough points to finish in the top four, Fellaini scored the opener in the 3-0 win against Spurs that led to a standing ovation at Old Trafford. He dominated the midfield at Anfield in one of United’s best wins at Liverpool in the Premier League era, scored the second goal in the 4-2 rout against Manchester City—all in the space of six weeks.
In the following campaign, his goals in the latter stages of the FA Cup ensured the club’s success in the competition for the first time in twelve years. Yet there was always a sense of resentment towards the Belgian’s continued presence in the side which stretches to this day, so much so that a small section of match-going fans booed during his warm-up routine before he was brought on at Old Trafford.
Under Mourinho last season, despite the fact that he scored in the two semi-final ties in the League Cup and the Europa League—where he put in a Man-of-the-Match display in the final in May as United expertly diffused a vibrant Ajax side—the most striking memory of his contribution in 2016/17 would arguably be the dubious penalty he conceded at Goodison Park, that cost United two vital points in December. It’s rather unfair on the surface, but also understandable as this was a marriage that was destined to fail from the word go; à la chalk and cheese.
Today marks almost four long years from the day he signed for Manchester United, and the Belgian international has managed to score two less league goals in that entire period than he did in his final season alone at Everton. For Fellaini, it has been a largely disappointing tenure with a small patch of good performances in arguably the most important area of the pitch, where the difference in quality and quantity between United and the rest of the top sides has prevented them from mounting a proper title challenge.
That is why the arrival of Matic is probably good news for Fellaini as much as it is for United and the fans. Matic fills the void of an archetypal defensive midfielder playing week-in week-out while Fellaini either gets his opportunities further forward where he could be of more use and stationed further away from trouble, or he’s able to secure his move away from United and become a poster boy in the biggest club in Turkey.
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