Blog by: Sai Krishnan
During the transfer season, Manchester United spent £27.5 million to acquire Marouane Fellaini from Everton. David Moyes hailed the new signing’s versatility and ability to fit into various positions in the field by saying:
“Fellaini can do several different jobs, he can score goals and is effective in different areas”
Okay, that is indeed a desirable quality in a player, but is that what United need right now?
United have had a plethora of revered midfielders in the past and it was initially thought that they needed to sign a player who’s skill set was comparable to some of their more talented midfielders. And then they decided on signing Fellaini. Although the strategy does have it’s merits, it’s hard to compare Fellaini to any of United’s talented midfielders.
Bryan Robson? The former United Captain was known for his leadership qualities, stamina and ability to go box-to-box the entire game. This doesn’t resemble to Fellaini’s particular skill set.
Roy Keane? Nope. The Irishman was both awe-inspiring and fearsome at the same time. He was a natural leader. He could dictate the pace of a game, could inspire others to step up their game and could strike fear into the hearts of his opponents. Doesn’t really look like I am describing Fellaini, does it?
Paul Scholes? Not even close. The finest English player of his generation, Scholes was known for his playmaking ability, long and short passing, tackling and clinical finishing. He was revered by most of the players who played against him, including Zinedine Zidane and Xavi.
Michael Carrick? Probably the best midfielder in their roster right now, Carrick is an extraordinary passer and is known for his ability to knit together United’s attacks. While Fellaini likes to see the ball a lot, he’s neither the supreme passer that Carrick is, nor is he a playmaker.
One advantage which Fellaini have is that he’s big and physical, which means he generally wins a lot of headers. Due to his size, he also makes his presence felt in the penalty area.
He can tackle opponents, but he can’t really shut them down. And when does try, he ends up being called for fouls. He was the league leader in number of fouls given away last season.
Due to his size and defensive skills, it was thought that Fellaini would be an ideal fit for the central holding role. In fact, he said so himself.
“I will play defensively, but if I can help the team further forward, then I will do that.”
On paper, Fellaini does fit this role, but anybody who saw him play against Manchester City would disagree with that. He didn’t exactly win tackles by the dozen, nor was he able protect the back four well enough to assure himself of a defensive role.
So if Fellaini doesn’t have the skill set of four disparate types of midfielders United have had, nor can he defend that well, what does he offer United? The answer is: Goals.
He scored 11 goals for Everton last season. United, on the other hand, have never had a central midfielder who’s gotten into double figures in the league since Paul Scholes, in the 2004-05 season. So, that’s an aspect in which Fellaini is perfect for United. Or is he?
There’s just one problem, Fellaini scored most of these goals playing behind Everton’s Striker, Nikica Jelaviç. Fellaini cannot expect to do the same here, as that position is already taken up by Wayne Rooney.
During the games when Fellaini dropped back to the midfield, there was a marked decrease in his performance. He was inconsistent in his dominance over opposing players and overall, wasn’t quite as impressive as he was up front.
The only thing which Fellaini has going for him at the moment is his versatility. But as fate would have it, players (like John O’Shea, Phil Jones) who were versatile had good, but not great, careers at United.
Another problem of constantly moving a player on the field is that it hinders their performance, morale and can lead to underachievers.
For £27.5 million, United need a player who has it in him to be a game changer. They don’t need a jack of all trades, but king of one type of a player. They need someone who can establish himself as the best in the business in one particular position, preferably a central holding one at the moment.
Despite all that has been said above, the fact remains: Fellaini is a young, talented player. He’s just 25, and has lots of potential. However, he needs to work with Moyes (who’s coached him for five years previously) and adapt his game in order to fit into one particular role in the United squad. In order to achieve this, he needs to be given a regular position in the roster though.
If he is indeed given a regular position, will be he able to adapt and develop into a player United need him to? For the amount of money he’s been paid, United fans would certainly hope so.