Lifting the lid on the world of football

The Secret Footballer
29 Mar, 2014

Fellaini ‘failure’ should be flying high

You always hear it from managers. I heard it this season when Gordon Strachan was trying to advise Tottenham’s Erik Lamela, from the warmth of a studio, how best to deal with his poor form. “Just run around,” Strachan said.

Every manager will say that at least once a season to a player who is struggling to play his normal game, usually because of a lack of confidence.

For it is universally felt within football that running around and getting in the way of things and generally being a nuisance is the road to recovery.

That is because it reintroduces the player to that most basic of expectations – the work ethic.

However, Marouane Fellaini, the Manchester United midfielder, has expanded on that notion and introduced his own style of making up for the fact that he is out of his depth and low on confidence – violence.

By now, you will have seen that the former Standard Liege midfielder is under investigation for appearing to spit at Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta while he was lying on the turf.

Shortly before, United’s £27.5 million acquisition tried introducing the full back’s nose to his left ear

Shortly before, United’s £27.5 million acquisition tried introducing the full back’s nose to his left ear with what was nothing short of a disgraceful elbow to the face.

But it wasn’t just that incident. Fellaini’s general play, particularly in the 3-0 defeat against City, has been so poor that it has made me watch through my fingers. His passing is erratic, especially his short passing, and his movement is far too laboured.

He smacks of a player who is so tired after chasing fitter and more nimble players around that, when he gets the ball, it is all he can do to give it to the nearest man.

It is obvious that we are not seeing the real Fellaini and, for me, his problems stem from a fitness issue that can be resolved only by having a full pre-season of hard work.

The trouble is, the World Cup finals are coming.

And, of course, Fellaini can’t be blamed for wanting to join United, either. In that sense, you have to wonder where the logic was on the part of the club because – pardon my Flemish – how the F do you go from Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera before settling on a player who isn’t remotely similar to any of them?

Sir Alex Ferguson had it right. He didn’t just buy whoever he could find if the right first-team player wasn’t available. He didn’t always get that first-team player right, mind you, but at least he went after the player who he felt the team needed most.

But at least he went after the player who he felt the team needed most

But there may be a lesson for the doubters, of which I remain one. I played against Fellaini in one of his first games for Everton, when he was deployed as a basic central midfielder, and I remember phoning an old manager friend of mine – the same one who I rang to wax lyrical about Luka Modric – and I told him about how bad this new player was who Everton had signed.

Later, however, Fellaini found his niche. When he was eventually pushed a little further forward to ultimately fill the role previously held by Tim Cahill, he flourished.

With Everton’s direct style of football and Fellaini’s strength and ability to hold the ball up, the dynamic of the team was secured.

He relieved so much pressure on the team and created chances for his team-mates as well as scoring his fair share of goals.

Once his confidence was up, he reverted back to a defensive midfield position, where his performances led David Moyes to claim that “he is as good as anyone in the league”.

I don’t think he meant “Champions League” but still.

Since then, I have made it my business not to judge a player based purely on the first position that he starts in at a new club, though the temptation on occasion is extraordinary.

The problem that Fellaini has now, though, is that United do not play in the same way as Everton did. And because of that, United manager Moyes is facing a real conundrum.

With United struggling to qualify for the Champions League, the big Belgian may find that he is shoved further forward next season after the club has failed to attract top talent because of a probable Europa League campaign.

Given that United also boast a shaky back four and a weaker than normal midfield, there is certainly the possibility that Moyes will revert to type, particularly if Robin van Persie decides to up sticks.

If that should play out, then the Old Trafford faithful may well go into meltdown

And if that should play out, then the Old Trafford faithful may well go into meltdown.

Sections of the United supporters are, of course, already actively demonstrating their displeasure at the season they’re witnessing. And I always make a point of looking out for the banner tacked to one side of the stadium that shows a picture of Moyes with “The Chosen One” written alongside it.

I’ve since heard that stewards in the ground now guard it on matchdays.

The latest news on that front is that a plane, hired by some United fans, will fly over Old Trafford today during the match with Aston Villa trailing a banner that says: “Wrong One – Moyes Out”.

I could be wrong but may be “Marouane Fellaini” was too expensive for them?


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About the author: The Secret Footballer


I’ve seen everything there is to see in football, and a lot more outside of it. My anonymity let’s me tell you how it is, from inside the game without the shackles of pre-conception or fan bias.

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  1. Sanjay

    My thought exactly on Fellani. He seems the type of player that would do well playing long ball football, getting flick-on’s etc. His passing, technique, dribbling, awareness is diabolical for a Premier League player though which is why he doesn’t fit into the Man Utd ethos of play. Moyes wants to play long-ball as that is what he knows, however, he can’t get away with that at Old Trafford…like he did at Everton (although Everton fans wouldn’t want him back after seeing what Martinez has delivered). To put it into perspective, it was difficult to replace Scholes, but getting a Fabregas / Silva type player was how to do it. Instead getting a modern day Carlton Palmer which is what Fellani is, just shows-up David Moyes transfer acumen. A total waste of money and Everton were laughing all the way to the bank.

  2. jimbo

    Saw a picture of some idiot berating Sir Fergie for his role in Choosing the One and, by extension, United’s rotten season. It’s that arrogance, and sense of entitlement, that has everybody else laughing.

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