Will Manchester United miss Marouane Fellaini?
Manchester United, Marouane Fellaini. It never looked like a match made in heaven when David Moyes took the decision to bring the midfielder to Old Trafford, but four-and-a-half years later, the big man is still playing his football in Red Devils colours.
To say it has been easy for him would be a blatant lie. The fans haven't really taken to Fellaini, although they simply cannot deny that in certain scenarios, having the former Everton man as a Plan B is often rather useful and productive.
Is he a player who's going to get the ball down on the deck and wow you with his technical brilliance? No, nor will he be at the fore when it comes to making that incisive, defence-splitting pass à la Paul Scholes or Michael Carrick.
However, when the going get's tough, you can always count on Fellaini to be that physical, disruptive presence who'll force opposing midfielders into mistakes. He's always good for a goal here and there, too...
When Jose Mourinho learned that the 6'4 Belgian would be ruled out for six-eight weeks he would've been distraught. Fellaini's absence reduces United's ability to play the long ball, while also leaving the club mightily thin in a vital position. The self-proclaimed Special One has just four fit midfielders (Carrick, Matic, Pogba, Herrera), if another were to go down, the manager would have a huge problem on his hands.
Jokes aside. Fellaini is often on the wrong end when it comes to undeserved criticism. Not once has he hit back at the 'fans' who used to boo him during a poor run, instead, the midfielder kept working hard with one goal in mind; proving them wrong.
Under Mourinho, Fellaini has found a manager who trusts him wholeheartedly, and you can see that in his performances. The 30-year-old plays with freedom while expressing himself as best he can. In a three-man midfield, he's given a licence to join in on the attack and when a high-ball comes into the box, you'd bet on him to win the header more often than not.
With Fellaini out, United is losing a dimension that cannot be easily replaced. For the Red Devils, the Premier League title is gone. However, his absence for their two-legged tie against Sevilla and there FA Cup game against either Huddersfield or Birmingham could be crucial. If these ties get disjointed and ragged, Fellaini is the perfect guy to throw on as he's a battler who loves a scrap. He'd protect his teammates, put a tough tackle while not shying away from a physical battle. Could I see Pogba or Herrera doing that? Not a chance.
Don't forget that United's #27 is yet to pen a new deal at Old Trafford, heck, you can hardly blame him for not committing. For the majority, he's been public enemy #1 when things go wrong so why would he want to stay there? What's undeniable though, is the fact that he has made a positive difference under Mourinho. Losing him would be a step backwards, and Reds supporters won't know what they have until he's gone...