Why I won’t change my mind on Fellaini

Marouane Fellaini
Marouane Fellaini

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.

United Season Review So Far

With the March international break an unnecessary inconvenience we take a look back at Manchester United’s season so far.

Who is your player of the season so far? Who have been the most improved player? What has been your favorite performance and why? What’s been the goal of the season so far? We ask this and more as our regular panelists Mark, Rich, Martin and Alex take questions from our guest presenter Anna.

Remember to leave YOUR comments below the video and as always we’ll reply and join in the debate. And remember to subscribe Free to our Youtube channel by clicking here

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Wayne Rooney – Not the season it could have been

Wayne Rooney

An average season for Wayne Rooney so far?

With more pressing needs, such as tactics, team selections and an overall lack of cohesion in United’s play, Wayne Rooney has quite rightly slipped under the radar of many United fans over the last few months. Played out of position, the only realistic candidate to captain the side and unquestionable effort and desire week in week out in a United shirt are three major get out of jail cards in Rooney’s favour in what has been a pretty mundane season so far. But are these reasons enough to absolve Rooney of any blame or should we expect more from Manchester United’s captain?

Dealing with the issue of captaincy first, there were those fans – me included – who anticipated the appointment of Robin Van Persie as captain last August. An experienced captain from his Arsenal days and a close ally of Van Gaal, it seemed a logical choice to make and one that wouldn’t have been met with too much dissatisfaction. Van Persie had just come off the back of a successful World Cup campaign, in contrast to Rooney, who yet again had failed to deliver on the world stage. There is also a general consensus that Rooney and Van Persie don’t perform well as a pair and although it’s easy to pick Rooney now, if it was a straight choice between the two last summer the majority would have swayed towards the Dutchman. Hindsight is a wonderful thing though and looking back you’d be hard pushed to find a United fan who didn’t accept that the appointment of Rooney was the right one. Van Persie has endured an inexplicably poor season so far at United and if fans are concerned by some of our play this season then the expectation would be that it would have been far worse with an underperforming leader.

So if Rooney is the right man to lead the team, how has he performed in the role? There’s definitely been some questionable moments, publicly berating a young Tyler Blackett in the Leicester game for a mistake Rooney had made wasn’t his finest hour and the sending off against West Ham was typical petulance that cannot be afforded to the figurehead of the team. However, if Van Gaal deserves time to mould his team then surely Rooney deserves time to come to terms with what is arguably the pinnacle of any footballers career? The Blackett incident was unsavoury but can easily be dismissed as frustration on Rooney’s part. As for the West Ham sending off, hopefully Rooney can learn from that incident so that it doesn’t happen again but remember a certain Mr Roy Keane? United’s most successful captain of all time was known to lose his cool throughout his entire career. The jury is still out on Rooney as a captain but as a work in progress he’s doing a fair if not decent job, which hasn’t been helped by the positions the manager has utilised him in.

Which brings us nicely on to Rooney’s performances this season. To be a successful captain it’s a given that you’ve got to be performing on the pitch. Think Vidic, the rock solid leader at the back, Robson, captain marvel from the midfield, or Cantona, the maestro conducting things from the attack. If a captain is to lead they must first perform. Too many times this season Rooney hasn’t performed. In his defence, there’s only been one or two bad performances and any player can be afforded that in a season. The worrying thing is the far too many average performances and severe lack of stand out games. David De Gea has consistently been United’s shining light this season, normally followed by a good defensive performance or a strong game from a Blind or Carrick. Rarely has an attacking player shone and that reflects badly on captain Rooney. Of course, Rooney has spent a number of games playing out of position and for this he should be commended. He hasn’t performed well as a midfielder but as captain of the side he’s took on the instruction from the manager and tried his best without making a fuss. We reappear at the root of the problem though, a captain must be performing well to lead. Playing Rooney in midfield blunts not only his ability to perform but also to lead.

The solution is to put Rooney where he’s most impactive, higher up the pitch. Rooney is simply not a midfielder. Or to clarify, Rooney is not a midfielder of the quality Manchester United require. Comparisons to Scholes are fantasy and whilst I’m sure Rooney could chisel out a career as a midfielder at lesser club such as Hull City or Aston Villa, why is Van Gaal trying to mould a 29 year old top class forward in his prime in to a mediocre midfielder? Not only that, why is he doing it to our captain and effectively blunting his performance and impact? The fact is Rooney is our best forward, he’s our captain and he should not only be the first name on the pitch it should also be an absolute priority that he’s played in his preferred position. Up there with the persistence with the destined to fail 532 formation and the ignoring of Herrera, the playing of Rooney in midfield is another Van Gaal stance that needs to change quickly. The result of this change will see Rooney back playing where he’s happiest, where he performs best and where he can do what he does naturally. This will release him from the burden of having to learn a new role as a player whilst also learning the trade as a captain.

The message is clear, let Rooney truly lead the team from the front. And as a footnote for those who spout myths of Rooney losing his legs and that a move in to midfield is natural to prolong his career? When has Rooney ever relied on explosive pace or skill to beat a man? Not for nearly a decade is the answer. The truth is there’s no requirement for Rooney to ever move away from the front line. As long as he wants to play football he’ll be a threat as a forward and if by some odd turn of events it’s Rooney himself who is driving this move to the midfield there’s a simple solution. Rooney is sold to Aston Villa and United go out and buy a top class midfielder who isn’t playing out of position for three hundred thousand a week.

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