To some he’s the new Roy Keane, to others a perma-haired anti-Christ, a bully whose only talent is to swing his elbows wildly while kicking opponents in the shins. Many see him as the perfect option for United while others recognise him as the only option left for David Moyes and Ed Woodward but one that would, almost inevitably, speed up the process of “Evertonisation”.
Whatever your take on Marouane Fellaini, few players have managed to split opinions among United fans as the Belgian has done in recent weeks as rumours linking the Everton midfielder with a move to Old Trafford have grown increasingly louder during United’s systematic failures to land either Thiago Alcantara or Cesc Fabregas.
It is now six years since Sir Alex Ferguson entered the transfer window for a central midfielder – two, to be precise – Owen Hargreaves and Anderson - and a further twelve months since the acquisition of the sole midfield purchase to become a success during his time at the club in Michael Carrick who has recently developed into a pivotal figure for the club.
Since then, the engine room has increasingly developed into an Achilles heel for the club, with Paul Scholes’ retirement only worsening the situation, while Tom Cleverley, bright as his future might be, still not fully stepping up to the level many expected of him, particularly after he established himself as a regular in the first half of last season.
Though I loved the man, I was often puzzled by Fergie’s stubbornness (bordering on blindness) when it came to address the gaping hole in United’s midfield and I had seriously hoped David Moyes’ first decision would be to secure a couple of top class midfielders, not so much a commodity as a desperate necessity if United are to seriously challenge the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich for European glory.
After missing out on Fabregas and Thiago, United face the serious risk of positioning themselves onto next season’s starting blocks without having bolstered their midfield and as admirable as David Moyes’ bravado is, that is ultimately all it is, a bullish statement borne out of the need to instill faith in his players as much as from the club’s failure to land a world class signing.
Fellaini isn’t, by any stretch of imagination, a world class midfielder and suggesting he could be an alternative to Fabregas is simply laughable, for the two couldn’t be further away in terms of characteristics. One is a crafty playmaker, with vision and a good range of passing, while the other is a defensive midfielder that found himself playing almost as a second striker during his Everton career and has developed, out of mere necessity one would suspect, an eye for the goal.
Rather than a contingency plan for Fabregas, Fellaini would have represented an excellent complement for the Barcelona midfielder, or for any player in the Spaniard’s mould for that matter. While I’m not a big fan of his, Fellaini does undoubtedly possess some qualities that United’s midfield could do with it.
The first, and more obvious, is the physical presence. At 6’4″ the Belgian would add some much needed brute force to an area where United have too often been bullied in the recent seasons, not to mention that Fellaini’s far from angelic attitude – he’s racked up 36 yellow and one red card in 138 Premier League appearances – would present United with the sort of hard man that the club’s been searching for since 2005.
Perhaps more importantly, considering the Thiago and Fabregas fiascos, Fellaini fits into the category of realistic targets for the club, an increasingly shrinking pool in which midfielders that could improve the David Moyes’ squad are few and far between, and his £23.5m is still relative good value for money in this day and age, particularly when one considers that the Belgian could benefit from a supporting cast of higher quality than the one he’s been surrounded with at Everton.
Furthermore, while not technically eye-catching, Fellaini has a knack for scoring goals, a crucial aspect of the game in which United midfielders haven’t exactly excelled in in recent seasons. During the 2012-13 campaign, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Antonio Valencia, Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Nani, Darren Fletcher, Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa scored a combined total of 17 Premier League goals, with the Japanese netting six of those, while Fellaini notched 11 league goals himself.
Ultimately, while the Belgian might not possess the same box office appeal of the likes of Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Luka Modric, he nevertheless represents an option that would go some way in curing United’s terminally ill midfield, and those who believe that Moyes would be a fool to splash out £23.5m on Fellaini tend to forget that the Scotsman was pivotal in developing the 25-year-old into a player worth so much.
United’s midfielder Godot might never arrive and, while not the player many had dreamt about, Marouane Fellaini is arguably a better option than prolonging the wait.
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Tags: Manchester United