The midfielder endured a confidence-sapping season at Manchester United but reminded critics what he is made of with a game-changing 25-minute cameo as Belgium beat AlgeriaBy Alex Young
After a much-discussed £27.5 million move to Manchester United last summer, Marouane Fellaini struggled to live up to his price tag.
However, while he failed to make an impact at Old Trafford last season, Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots stuck by the midfielder during qualification and preparation for the World Cup.
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|PERFORMANCE AGAINST ALGERIA
With Belgium facing a shock opening defeat, Fellaini's appearance off the bench with 25 minutes remaining undeniably changed the game.
Within five minutes, the 26-year-old levelled the game and shifted the momentum in his side's favour. The Belgian midfield had laboured for 70 minutes, but an excellent delivery from Kevin de Bruyne saw Fellaini outmuscle Carl Medjani and send a looping header over Rais Mbolhi.
It was Belgium's first goal in a World Cup since 2002, a run stretching 506 minutes of football.
The comeback was complete 10 minutes later thanks to Dries Mertens' powerful near-post strike but Fellaini was the fulcrum, having more shots on goal than any other player and boasting the fourth-best success rate in aerial duels and attempted tackles, despite his short cameo.
|HE'D BE PERFECT FOR...
Looking at other possible Premier League destinations, ironically the likes of Everton would suit Fellaini best with his intimidating presence a perfect foil to Roberto Martinez's slick pass-and-move approach.
But, of course, 12 months ago it was evident Fellaini could perform at a higher level than was available to him at Goodison Park and that fact still remains.
In truth, many Champions League contenders would benefit from the presence of the Belgian in their midfield - be it the frantic football in England or even the slower-paced approach adopted in Serie A - due to his ability to transition between defence and attack.
Fellaini's more traditional role as a tough-tackling defensive midfielder was ignored by David Moyes at United - despite the Scot being the man who nurtured him so well at Everton - while the player was insipid at best when pushed further forward on a handful of occasions.
During his final season at Everton, Fellaini predominantly featured in an attack-minded role which took advantage of his height and strength - the same attributes which he put to good use against Algeria - but Moyes left him in no-man's land. After Tuesday's confidence boost, he could be perfect for many sides.
|WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
With Louis van Gaal announced as David Moyes's successor but yet to officially take control, it is anyone's guess if Fellaini has a future at Old Trafford.
The midfielder's hefty price tag is unlikely to convince the Dutchman to keep the player, and the manager-to-be has already outlined transfer targets who could occupy Fellaini's position.
But, as on show on Tuesday, there is still boundless potential in Fellaini despite a confidence-sapping 10 months in Manchester - if he is deployed in a position that suits him.
Currently, Wayne Rooney takes up the mantle of connecting midfield and attack, with Fellaini pushed further back alongside the similarly under-performing Michael Carrick, and is supported by the likes of Juan Mata.
Whether Van Gaal will offer Fellaini the chance to prove himself remains to be seen, but if his 25-minute cameo on Tuesday is anything to go by, he still has the ability to make an impact.
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