Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Formula One 2014: Complete schedule, standings, driver info
Belguim's Marouane Felliani is the fifth most expensive player in Manchester United's history. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images
Belguim's Marouane Felliani is the fifth most expensive player in Manchester United's history. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

Marouane Fellaini will not start his Manchester United career with a clean slate

As a late arrival at Old Trafford, the imposing Belgian will have to disprove theories as to why he ranked so low on the club's list of sumer transfer targets.

It was the standard speech of a player who has just joined Manchester United, but with one slight difference. Marouane Fellaini talked about wanting to win the league with his new club. Unlike other recruits, however, the Belgian starts not with zero titles, arguably, but with minus one.

But for him, United would probably have been champions in 2012. Were it not for him, too, they would not have suffered a false start to last season’s successful campaign. When he last played at Old Trafford, United afforded him a man-marker. The cliche is ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’; where Fellaini is concerned, perhaps that should be adapted to: ‘If you can’t stop them, sign them’.

A status as United’s nemesis was established in April 2012 when Everton, 3-1 and 4-2 down, recovered to draw 4-4. Fellaini scored their second goal and set up their fourth; as United lost eight points in four games, it was a pivotal result.

He began last season by heading a winner against United. So when Everton visited Manchester in February, he had his own personal escort: Phil Jones followed him all over the pitch, trying to reduce the match to a 10-a-side game while the Belgian and his bodyguard watched on.

So as Fellaini prepares to make his United debut against Crystal Palace tomorrow, perhaps his new employers’ prospects have already improved. Simply because they do not have to face him, United may argue they will take more points.

Yet the £27.5 million (Dh159.6m) midfielder starts both at an advantage and at a disadvantage. United are all too aware of who he is – an uncompromising, idiosyncratic force who has exposed their lack of physical power – but it is also a question of who he isn’t: the statement signing, the superstar they wanted.

Fellaini is the fifth most expensive player in United’s history. Even that, however, is deceptive, a proof of further failure. He had a £23.5m release clause that expired on July 31; United did not activate it and ended up paying an extra £4m.

The delay was all the odder as David Moyes, previously his manager at Everton, knew precisely what he was getting.

“He’s been one of the best midfielders in the Premier League over the last few seasons,” the Scot said. “He can play higher up, behind the striker or as a defensive midfielder.”

His versatility offers options but provides uncertainty. The reality is that Fellaini’s finest form for Everton came when playing just off the main striker, his height making him an unconventional attacking weapon. Yet Wayne Rooney is earmarked for that role at Old Trafford. United’s need is greatest in the centre of midfield where they were timid in defeat to Liverpool. Fellaini is altogether more competitive.

Yet a survey of United’s midfield targets this summer – including Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Daniele de Rossi and Wesley Sneijder – suggests Moyes’ priority was to inject creativity. Fellaini has proved he can deliver goals. The test is to show he can be a penetrative passer from a deeper position.

As it is, the expectation is that Moyes will resume his search for midfielders in January.

“I think that’s an area where everybody felt we could do with strengthening,” the manager said. Truth be told, they still do.

Fellaini will be compared with men they failed to sign this summer and those they could buy in the New Year. As one of Moyes’ former charges, he has to shake off suggestions his move was proof of nepotism. As a late arrival, he has to disprove theories why he ranked some way down the list of targets. An expensive addition starts not with a clean slate, but with an initial impediment.

sports@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike puts Al Jazira on verge of qualifying for the last 16 of Asian Champions League

All to play for across East Asia during final round of group phase.

 Manchester City's Vincent Kompany reacts after being sent off by referee Lee Mason during their English Premier League soccer match against Hull City at the KC stadium in Hull, northern England March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Man City’s Manuel Pellegrini says Vincent Kompany is an important player

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini defends team captain and talks about team's injuries ahead of clash with Sunderland at home on Wednesday night.

 Supporters of China during the Asian Cup Qualifier match between Iraq vs China at Sharjah football stadium in Sharjah. Iraq won the match by 3-1. Pawan Singh / The National

Asian Cup expanding to 24 football teams in 2019

As part of a regional shake-up, the 2019 Asian Cup will climb to 24 teams but next month’s Challenge Cup in the Maldives will be the last, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced.

 Latifa Ali Al Shamsi of UAE fights compatriot Boshra Ghanem Al Zadjali in their 38.5kg match at the Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Christopher Pike / The National

Competitors at Abu Dhabi Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship target world domination

All of Wednesday’s winners at the tournament, being held in the UAE capital, are ambitious enough to target a black belt and reach the pinnacle of the sport, Amith Passela reports.

 Jacques Kallis top-scored with 72 for Kolkata Knight Riders against Mumbai Indians at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National

Kallis kicks off IPL 7 with fifty as Kolkata thrash Mumbai

South African legend shows class is permanent as Knight Riders beat defending champions by 41 runs. Osman Samiuddin reports from Abu Dhabi.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National