The Belgian has failed to put in a top performance since his arrival last summer. Goal’s Rahul Bali ponders whether he can ever offer the dynamism their midfield desperately needsThe Manchester derby was billed by many as a battle between Marouane Fellaini and Yaya Toure. As early as in the ninth minute, Toure left Fellaini for dead through sheer brute strength and speed. A minute prior to that, Fellaini fouled David Silva with a kick in order to stop the Spaniard from running the show at Old Trafford.
Thereafter he had a chance to score but his effort lacked power and went straight into Joe Hart’s hands. At the half hour mark, he should have been given his marching orders for an elbow in the face of Pablo Zabaleta but was lucky to escape with a yellow. Mind you, this was not when the City full-back was in possession with Fellaini hoping to win it back; it was the former Everton player who had the ball under his control but still chose to foul the Argentine for reasons unknown.
“Roy Keane was an aggressive player who could win every ball. Maybe I can do this as well. I can win the ball. I can clear the ball. I can play clean. The manager must decide where I play but I want to play defensive midfield,” said Fellaini after his summer move to United on the deadline day.
The mere comparison of Roy Keane to Fellaini would be an embarrassment for the Irishman given how highly regarded he is amongst the United faithful and football circles for his tenacity and leadership. Also Keane was known to cover every blade of grass, something which Fellaini can’t seem to do for obvious reasons.
On Tuesday night, there was absolutely no sign of Fellaini winning the ball, except for one interception. No tackles, no clearances. Compare that to Fernandinho who put in a top display. The Brazilian managed three interceptions along with one tackle and clearance apiece.
During the summer when Fellaini was linked with a move to United, many wondered where would he be deployed – upfront like he did at Everton or in midfield. Using him in attack wouldn’t make much sense given the attacking talent at Moyes’ disposal as opposed to what he had at Everton.
Many felt that he could offer the dynamism United’s midfield needs, in terms of winning the ball and playing it forward. To ensure that rival’s attacks are halted much before they reach the final third. He did have injury concerns but despite being fit, he has failed to deliver against the big sides.
It was back in December that former United striker Michael Owen stated that the 26-year old wasn’t what the club needed.
“I rate him highly in a certain type of team but I’m not sure he is a Manchester United player," he mentioned.
However it must be noted that Fellaini plays in the midfield for Belgium and has done quite well for them. But Belgium usually play in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-5-1 formation and that Fellaini is often placed alongside the likes of Alex Witsel or Moussa Dembele who are known to initiate attacks and have good skills on the ball, unlike at United.
Michael Carrick is a good interceptor of the ball and known to play diagonal balls to switch play. But to pair him with Fellaini hasn’t helped United’s cause one bit. Carrick sits deepest while Fellaini is expected to be the box-to-box midfielder and score.
He is slow and although he has proved himself handy against the likes of West Ham and Crystal Palace, he cannot do the job when the opposition has players of the caliber of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho.
Fellaini’s presence in United’s midfield, along with that of Tom Cleverley has made them sluggish which was primarily responsible for them conceding inside the opening 45 seconds of the game.
“He's not been great, has he? You have to admit that. He did have problems with his wrist and I know he missed a lot of games but, for the money they paid for him, I'd be expecting a lot more, to be honest with you. I'd be expecting a few goals, at least. For a central midfielder at Manchester United or £27m, I'm expecting a few goals,” Paul Scholes gave his verdict on Fellaini’s performance.
Moyes has continued to back his first signing at Old Trafford although there is no denying of his ineffectiveness at United.
United fans would hope that their ‘Chosen One’ gets it in the transfer window and hopefully not make the same mistakes they made last summer.