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Fellaini marks Chinese Super League debut with winning goal

14:18 GMT+3 01/03/2019
Marouane Fellaini Shandong Luneng 2019
The Belgium international fired home from close range as his first appearance since leaving Manchester United proved to be a victorious one

Marouane Fellaini needed little time to make his mark on the Chinese Super League as he opened the scoring on his Shandong Luneng debut.

The Belgium international left Manchester United in February for a reported £10 million ($13.2m) having fallen down the pecking order at Old Trafford under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

And with his new side opening the Chinese top-flight season with a home match against Beijing Renhe, the former Everton man was in the right place at the right time to put them ahead.

After a goalless first half, Shandong took the lead five minutes after the break as a scuffed shot landed at the feet of Fellaini, who in turn swivelled and fired into the net from the edge of the six-yard box.

That proved to be the only goal of the game as Li Xiaopeng's side got the campaign off to a perfect start.

Fellaini, 31, was one of the more eye-catching arrivals during the CSL off-season as he made the move from the Premier League to the Far East.

He was joined in making that journey by compatriot Mousa Dembele, who left Tottenham to join Guangzhou R&F, while Napoli stalwart Marek Hamsik also made the switch to China by joining Dalian Yifang.

They joined the likes of Oscar, Hulk, Yannick Carrasco, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Paulinho in plying their trade in a division that, until three years ago, had few big names to speak of.

The increased finances on offer have been cited as the main reason as to why established players might swap the Champions League for China, but Fellaini insisted ahead of his debut that was not the case for him .

Speaking to  Het Nieuwsblad , he said: “I went to Shandong Luneng now because they were interested for years already. And I felt ready for a new challenge, a new culture, a new life.

"Okay, I'm only 31 years old. But I signed for three years. Afterwards I'm 34, then it would be too late to go to China.

“I could have joined a top European club and been important there for two more years, that would have been no problem. But after 10 years and 350 games in England, I felt ready for this step. I'm happy with my choice.

“I'm already a professional for more than 12 years and everything went fine. I made my own choices and don't regret anything.

"I played at Standard [Liege], the biggest club in Belgium and won titles there. I went as a record transfer to the Premier League and opened doors to England for other Belgian players.

“At Everton I did well and at United I won some cups and a Europa League. The only thing missing is a Premier League title, that's true.

“But I don't dream anymore about a comeback to European top football. But maybe a comeback to Belgium, why not?”

Shandong will be hopeful Fellaini's presence can see them improve on their third-placed finish in 2018 as they ended the campaign 10 points behind eventual champions Shanghai SIPG.