If I had a pound for every tweet I’d been tagged in to lately telling me I was wrong about Fellaini, I’d probably have about ninety two pounds fifty. But you’ll get where I’m going with this. A player has a good couple of games and the bandwagon rolls in to town.
I’d like to say that Fellaini divides opinion but the truth is there’s been such a change in United fans since Sir Alex left that it’s actually very hard to pin an opinion down. It’s almost like what some fans think depends on which way the wind’s blowing. For example, in January many were writing Michael Carrick’s eulogy and championing the cause of Daley Blind, a month later you can’t move for pro Carrick tweets and blog articles. Likewise with Falcao, at the start of the season there was a unanimous feeling that signing him on loan and selling Welbeck was like exchanging a Ford Fiesta for a pimped up Land Rover Sport. Six months later the majority want to return the Land Rover and bring back the Fiesta – all I’ll say is the Fiesta still has the same design flaws and the Land Rover is all about knowing how to drive it.
Which is why I take these fans who insist those who question Fellaini should apologise with a very large pinch of salt . I’ll gladly hold my hands up and admit I’ve not been his biggest fan – I openly stated at the start of the season that the sight of Fellaini in a United shirt made me heave. But like many United fans out there, when I make my mind up about something it’s not motivated by the latest piece of nonsense being spouted by sensationalist newspaper chains or football blogs looking for popularity. I make my mind up based on numerous factors and experience and actually watching players play football before forming an opinion. So there’ll be no apology to Marouane from me. My opinion on him hasn’t changed.
Most importantly, I don’t see him as a United player. I applaud Van Gaal for getting the most out of him and I’m not blind to the fact that in the last couple of games he’s been exceptional. However, for thirty million pounds I think it’s fair to assume we should be getting at least a handful of good games out of him a season and I actually find it insulting to Fellaini the way fans shout his name from the rooftops because he has a good game. He’s a professional footballer, not a milkman throw in at the deep end in a United shirt. He gets paid a lot of money to play football well, so it shouldn’t be back page news when he does just that. Some fans go in to giddy elation when he scores a couple of goals for Belgium because they think it proves them right and anyone who questions him wrong. Like I say, he’s a professional footballer and within a certain team at a certain level he’s a definite asset. My argument is that talent and style is not one we want to see in a Manchester United first team long term.
So why has Fellaini blossomed under Van Gaal? Well United have massively under achieved this year when compared to the high standards set over the last three decades. As things stand we’re in a fight for fourth place, we’ve played two decent games out of thirty and we’ve consistently struggled to stamp – pardon the pun Slippy G – our authority on games. Van Gaal desperately required someone who could offer a much needed physical presence in and round the midfield and when you search through the current United setup the choice was limited to one. Step forward Mr Fellaini. The bottom line is United are woefully understaffed in the midfield, a point not lost on United fans for many years and a legacy of Sir Alex’s failure to invest in this area in his final years in charge – don’t mention Pogba. So for all his limitations Fellaini has found himself in the favourable position of being Van Gaal’s only option many times this season. Fellaini fans will state it’s because Van Gaal likes Fellaini and sees him as a fundamental part of his plans, all I’d say to that is study Van Gaal’s philosophy and nowhere in his last thirty years as a coach will you find the need for a tall lumbering midfielder with no pace and average passing skills. And to kill that argument off completely, Fellaini was one hundred per cent being sold to Napoli last August if he hadn’t got injured.
The cold truth is this season has been about necessity. Achieving top four by whatever means possible, making it to the summer and then being able to bring in the players Van Gaal really needs. At which point the need for Fellaini will diminish when the likes of Pogba, Strootman, Bale and others become very realistic targets. Personally I’ve always said that as a bench option in the last twenty minutes of a game Fellaini’s a great asset to have if we want to mix things up and throw some balls in to the box. Whether Van Gaal will want to waste a spot on his bench for that next season is questionable but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it because in the Premier League especially it can prove invaluable. However, if Van Gaal decides as he did back in August, that Fellaini is surplus to requirements then the way he’s been playing lately means we can at least expect a decent price for him and we can reinvest that money in players who are going to take us back to the top again, instead of battling for fourth place.
So to all those fans who keep saying “I told you so” about Fellaini my reply is consistent, as it has been all season. Fellaini is an asset higher up the pitch but a liability as a defensive or central midfielder – which is where he was being played until January. He’s not a starting eleven player in a United team that wants to win things because he doesn’t befit what a successful United team should be. And most important of all, whilst Fellaini is playing very well at the moment and demonstrating the sort of passion I’d expect to see in anyone who pulls on our famous shirt we need to be realistic. We’re Manchester United and two games ago we were looking at the very realistic proposition of missing out on the top 4 due to our own consistently poor performances. If we want to win the league and challenge again in Europe then we need better players. Rooney, Mata, Herrera, Carrick, Di Maria are players I’d consider good enough on their day to make us challengers again. Fellaini, RVP and Falcao aren’t.
Football is all about opinion though and the above is mine. I’d love to hear a coherent view on why anyone thinks Fellaini is the man to make us challengers again. Because the top teams won’t ever be lining up for his signature. He’s done a decent job for us this season but for the majority of that time our football has been far from decent.