What does the future hold for Marouane Fellaini at Manchester United?
Few Premier League players are more polarizing than Marouane Fellaini. The Manchester United midfielder divides opinion with his play. There are only two alternatives when his name is mentioned. Fans either absolutely love him, or absolutely hate him.
But regardless of that, there is something no one can debate. Fellaini comes through when his team needs him the most.
We only need to go back a few days to see the latest example. During Sunday’s match against Arsenal, Fellaini came off the bench and only needed 26 minutes to be a decisive player. He nodded home a cross from Ashley Young to give United a huge 2-1 win at Old Trafford against their bitter rivals. It was Fellaini’s fourth Premier League goal this season, quite a remarkable tally considering he only has 15 appearances (four starts).
Sure, Fellaini hasn’t had the best season of his career. But things need to be put into context. The Belgian missed almost a month-and-a-half between late January and mid-March due to injury. He didn’t play a single minute during October due to physical problems as well. Even with those problems, he has registered 22 appearances for United across all competitions (six starts), scoring five times.
Fellaini has been quite productive, but his current deal will expire at the end of the season. He is practically playing to save his Man United career.
The question, then, becomes simple. What should Manchester United do with him? On one hand, he has struggled with injuries and is not exactly a player who can take over a game. On the other, though, he provides strength, height, an imposing aerial ability and a physical presence that’s always needed in the Premier League. Perhaps United should act quickly and give Fellaini a new deal. Or they may be wise to wait until the season’s end to further evaluate him.
Jose Mourinho gave a clear insight of what might happen with Fellaini. Right after Arsenal’s game, “I think a player that grabs the crest after scoring is telling clearly that he wants to stay. I want him to stay, the club wants him to stay, I think he will stay, it is nearly there. We are trying to organise our team and are thinking about improvements.”
That reads crystal clear: United want to keep Fellaini and the player wants to stay with the club. All signs point to both parties reaching an agreement sooner than later. While the Belgian will never set the world on fire with his performances, the reality is Manchester United would miss him.
Let’s look at United's other options in midfield. Scott McTominay might be an exciting prospect, but he is not ready to be a first-team player. Michael Carrick will retire at the end of the season. Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, meanwhile, can play in central midfield, yet neither feels comfortable with the defensive role that Fellaini embraces.
In a way, Fellaini looks like the perfect in-house replacement for Nemanja Matic who, even though is tough as nails, can’t play every single game.
Fellaini is not a flashy player. He is not going to stand for casual fans. But he is very important at Old Trafford.
Transfer rumours aside, Manchester United must keep Fellaini. He is the kind of player big teams need when games get tricky.