Does the midfield need Fellaini?

David Moyes stood on the Old Trafford touchline, laughing at Sir Alex Ferguson’s hallmark pointing at the watch, knowing full well that he had derailed United’s dwindling title hopes. His tactical master-plan revolved around a gangling afroman who was simply unplayable.

The opening day of any season is where fans are at their most optimistic, a new dawn brings fresh hope, but the opening gambit of last season saw us fall foul of the cunning Moyes and destructive Belgian. At a time when people were speculating whether the United empire was crumbling and City hegemony was threatening, Fellaini’s headed winner at Goodison felt like groundhog day.

On more than one occasion in the past, we have been tormented and susceptible to physically imposing monsters in midfield (Yaya Toure has also dominated against us, making established pros feel akin to us mere mortals). As recently as last year we assigned Phil Jones to the unenviable gladiatorial personal battle against Cristiano Ronaldo, but domestically the fact that he performed a similarly conservative role against Fellaini just goes to show the fear factor that he spreads into opposing defenders. Normally, a man marking role is designed to shackle the rare breed of footballer, the ilk of Ronaldo and Messi come up against these tactics every day. Of course, Fellaini is not in their league, no-one is, but it is credit to the lanky Belgian that teams go to such measures.

Our midfield has lacked a presence with grit and bite since Roy Keane’s infamous ‘prawn sandwich’ dig at our supporters. Fellaini is not a natural leader a la Keane and preceeding him Bryan Robson, but he may just fit the bill.

As he was adapting to the harsher rigours of English football, Fellaini was seen as a bit thuggish, a yellow-card junkie. In his opening two seasons with Everton, the card count reached double figures- a feat he surely does not cherish. Overall he has picked up 35 bookings in 138 games. This is a booking virtually every 4 games, as a guideline United normally rack up 60 games a season, I am no mathematician but even I know that would equate 15 bookings per season. This goes to show that Fellaini enjoys getting stuck in, he would provide something different in that respect. As I have already alluded to, at times we have been bullied in the big games, physically overcome. With the addition of Fellaini, we would be able to meet fire with fire.

Were Fellaini to be reunited with his mentor David Moyes, it would not simply be a case of beauty and the beast standing alongside Michael Carrick – Fellaini also has an unsuspecting grace mixed in with his physical attributes. As we suffered a bloody nose from Everton, Fellaini proved to be an outstanding target man with unreal touch and ball control. He has further enhanced his reputation by ending last season with his best goal tally since leaving Belgian football- he managed 11 Premier League goals. He is aerially imposing in both boxes, getting on the end of set-pieces, and proving more than a handful. Fellaini often benefited from the expert delivery from wide by Leighton Baines- with quality delivery, Fellaini is an undoubted goal threat either with head or feet. I wonder if by September 2nd that partnership will be wearing red and wreaking havoc?

Moyes exploited Fellaini’s attacking prowess by deploying him further forward, but Fellaini admitted that playing further forward is something he does not see as a long-term solution.

“I’m happy with my season, although I didn’t play in my best position.

“I’m not a No10. David Moyes predicts my future as a defensive midfielder, but due to a lack of offensive power, he plays me up front.

“In the future I want to play as a 6 or an 8. From there I can create danger and score goals”.

If Fellaini were to join, this admittance could play into our hands on numerous levels: he would fill a gaping void in midfield, which would give encouragement to Wayne Rooney if he was to see sense and stop being ‘angry and confused’. Playing Fellaini deeper means he would be no danger to Rooney’s position, we already have a plethora of attacking options, Fellaini would strengthen the defensive shield.

I understand why fans may be against Fellaini. He comes with a tarnished image- probably due to the amount of bookings, that ugly altercation with ex-Red Ryan Shawcross, some people would rightly be disgraced if he repeated that discretion in a United shirt. People think he is the beneficiary of the long-ball and would United have to adapt their fluid style to accommodate such a brute? But this will all be irrelevant if he knuckled down and sat alongside Michael Carrick, the position which he sees as his niche position.

I agree with those who may be opposed to Fellaini if he were to be our token midfield addition, I am of the same persuasion. With Moyes setting his sights on urgently addressing the centre midfield and already highlighted the need to replace Paul Scholes with a player of similar stature and poise, Fellaini is definitely not of Scholes’ ilk stylistically, giving weight to our Cesc Fabregas pursuit.

But if Fabregas and Fellaini were brought onboard, our midfield would be pretty formidable, not to mention Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa are still learning their trade and yet to fully realise their full potential. What an awesome prospect.

At around £20M, Fellaini comes with a reasonable price, and he also has the potential to become an even better player. Of all our midfield targets, he is a virtual gimme. Everton have said on numerous occasions that they would not stand in a player’s way were a bigger club to register an official interest. The chance to work with Moyes again is something the big Belgian would probably relish. There can also be little doubting that Fellaini will offer something different, something we have been lacking for years- a dominating presence.

I know there are a lot of Fellaini doubters, skeptical about his qualities and ability, maybe this piece has turned your heads.

Let’s hope we get our two main targets, Fabregas first, then Fellaini.

He may well be money well spent.


Follow Paul Rowles on Twitter.

More Stories David Moyes Everton Manchester United Marouane Fellaini Michael Carrick


  1. Totally agree. Fellaini would be right at the top of my list. Moysey knows his qualities better than anybody. Snap him up man!

  2. Great article. I agree that if we buy Fellaini specifically for a defensive midfield role, it would not be bad business. It would not cause doubt for a cesc, modric, etc. to join. I watched him play CDM in front of the back four against the USA not to long ago and thought he was very effective.

    This would allow us to use smaller and more effective attacking players like shinji, clevs, adnan, etc. who lack the defensive attributes.

    Agree with this.

  3. Surely the most cerebral analysis of our midfield limitations and needs. But who will listen? Beats me that the Fellaini deal has not been nicked all along. Believe me, all Moyes needs to understand the MU mentality is put a spineless CM on show in ’13/’14 season. Even the beat managers need reality checks. Not so sure if the Scot’s up there with the best, though!

  4. Good article.lost count how many times our midfield has been bullied by physically strong opposition. He would give our defence the cover its been lacking in recent times in the cdm role.he’s got good technique for a big guy which I think sometimes is overlooked due 2 the physical side of his game. Would be a good addition to our wafer thin midfield.

  5. It is either Fellaini is not trusted enough to do a job for United by Moyes, otherwise he should have been the first on his list. Fabregas may bring goals but not grits. How many times have we been over run in the midfield even by lesser teams? Have lost count. We need players who will create fear and can stand shoulder to shoulder with the Yaya of this world.

  6. Forgot to mention in the piece, his 11 goals in the Prem last year almost eclipses our ENTIRE midfield return last year. Our current bunch only managed 14 all season, which is unacceptable for a club of our stature.

    Goal threat as well as a hard man!

  7. Well said. I don’t know what’s holding up the more straight forward deals. Get on with it Moyes, at least start doing something!!

  8. its a tad simplistic that we just get bullied by imposing muscular midfields as we clearly have done with city…but we have also been outplayed by stylish midfields also ie barca and spurs at home and chelsea..the fact is united havent had a world class midfield for a long time now…..we have relied elsewhere for success…for me whoever moyes gets in midfield it has to be for a purpose for the bigger games where we clearly struggled…..he has to have an idea now in his mind how he sees united playing in the bigger games…because for all sir alex was the best premiership manager of all time…for me in the big games in the last few years and the major european nights it was a quite predictable every man behind the ball method….never more exposed when he employed a workhorse centre forward (wellbeck) to mark a deep lying midfielder (alonso) which cost us the game which has never been mentioned as we had the nani sending off as our excuse…felliani may not be the superstar we desire…however wouldnt it be nice not seeing the likes of gerrard who always seem to recover from an injury just in time for the united game get pushed around by felliani…and see toure not get all his own way……..united will always win a high percentage of our penalty kick games..what moysie needs to do is find a way to win our must win games with a clear vision and style that instigates a bit of fear which we have lost in the one off games

  9. I agree entirely Danny. When opposing teams see Fellaini on the team-sheet, it will look far more imposing than say an Ando/TC23 partnership (no disrespect to either). When it comes to the crunch games, like you say, Fellaini could be a very important player and arguably would be one of the first names on the team-sheet. Particularly against the Yaya’s of this world…

  10. the more i think about it the more i am sold…i think all united fans myself have gone crazy wanting a major world class signing…someone to make us jump off our seat and say “yesssssssssssssssss” however we do have an abundance of attacking talent…….however sadly in the big games they get overun in midfield and not allowed to shine…so even in the games we win in those games its usually a flash of brilliance by RVP rooney etc………however what if fellaini constantly kept the ball in the oppositions half and allowed kagawa even nani have the ball more often..perhaps they would shine more…as much as i rate carrick…and i do…he isnt a guy to keep surging you upfield……felliani and carrick could be the perfect balance….

  11. Very well written. I just can’t understand why so many people are hating on Fellaini. I keep reading all these posts saying “United need to sign a BIG star” and “Fellaini is s^%t” and it is driving me mad. I have been quietly hoping for Fellaini to sign and it looks like it just might happen. A whole bunch of plastic fans are going to lose the plot and start asking for moyes’ head.. But I really can’t wait until they choke on their words!

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