The biggest turn around of this strange season for Manchester United would be Maroune Fellaini’s form against Spurs and Liverpool. He dominated the midfield from an advanced inside left position and for the first time in quite a few years United fans would be pleased to note that their midfield had overrun and outpassed the opposition. After a disastrous first season at United,when he was primarily played as a holding midfielder,it looks like Fellaini has finally found his best position in this new look United side. Even at Everton,his best position was much closer to the striker but at United he was forced to start his career much deeper as United lacked players in that department.
Credit must be given to Van Gaal(At TF9,we have been quite critical about LvG so far this season) for managing to fit the former Everton midfielder in a position best suited to his abilities. Although not as influential as against Spurs(partly due to Rooney’s inability to do anything with Fellaini’s knockdowns),Fellaini was instrumental in Manchester United’s dominating performance in the first half against Liverpool.
From the advanced left position,Fellaini allows United to dominate the advanced areas around the penalty box. From forming triangles with Young and Blind to pressing the opposition midfield,Fellaini is helping the United midfield dominate possession in attacking areas. For the Old Trafford faithful,the last time they saw their midfield dominate a game was sometime around 2009,so this new look midfield is a breath of fresh air.
Against Spurs both Fellaini and Herrera were asked to push forward and press the Spurs midfielders. This allowed United to dominate possession high up on the pitch. Fellaini also demonstrated excellent space-finding skills as he managed to avoid Dier and Mason on route to scoring the first goal. Tottenham were struggling to deal with the triangles formed by Fellaini,Blind and Young,so much so that there were forced to replace Townsend within 30 minutes. Although Fellaini was impressive with the ball at his feet,United weren’t hesitant to use him as an outlet and the Belgian’s brilliant heading ability and chest control came to the fore.
Against Liverpool,United’s attack came primarily down the right as Mata exploited the confusion in the Liverpool defence(Confusion on whom to mark Mata,Moreno or Sakho) and scored a brace. Fellaini was again a very important outlet for United and he had the beating of Emre Can every time the ball was in the air. United used Fellaini as a decoy as every long ball from the back was directed at the Belgian who then tried to play on Rooney. Fellaini was very good with the ball at his feet,escaping the press and managing to find colleagues in better positions. The first goal started off with Fellaini dropping deep escaping the attention of the Liverpool defence ,then finding Herrera who then played a brilliant ball to Mata.
“He has qualities that now, at this moment, he can contribute a lot. That is why he is playing. He also allows me to give balance to the team and that is important for a manager who is looking for balance. I think he has to play higher and higher up and Michael Carrick has to play deeper. I have said a lot of times at press conferences, for example [Fellaini] is a player that gives a solution for beating the pressing of the opponents. That’s also a contribution, he has more contributions but that is one of his contributions.” – Louis van Gaal
Fellaini offers much more than just his height,he is the perfect forward destroyer,a position created in order to stop the opposition deep lying playmaker,who in the modern game is the heart of the team.