It’s not unfair to suggest that Marouane Fellaini is still something of a divisive presence for Manchester United fans. Many suggest that he is symptomatic of a problem that has long-since pervaded Old Trafford of keeping players that aren’t up to the high standards that the club once set, whilst others argue that his utilisation causes frequent issues that aren’t necessarily his fault.
We saw two sides to the Belgian in this last week or so; the one that was a useful, physical and controlling presence in midfield against Liverpool, and the slack, loose player that we saw against Chelsea in Sunday afternoon’s 4-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge. Fans are so used to seeing the latter that they often discount the former as a mere blip.
Fellaini didn’t even make it through Sunday’s game, which might be something of a blessing for the man himself. David Luiz lunged in wildly on the first half when the Belgian had the ball and firmly landed his studs onto his opponent’s knee. Quite how referee Martin Atkinson could only book the Brazilian for such a reckless challenge and brandish only a warning was beyond the club’s fans that afternoon, but it didn’t overshadow a wretched performance, whilst also leading to Fellaini’s substitution at half time.
Buried in The Times’ revelation that some of United’s players are ‘stunned’ by Jose Mourinho’s hands-off approach, and frequently lets assistant Rui Faria lead training sessions whilst he either watches from a distance or works in his office is the suggestion that Fellaini only suffered ‘minor bruising’ in the clash. This means that the former Everton midfielder could be available for Wednesday’s EFL Cup third round clash with Manchester City at Old Trafford, or, failing that, Saturday’s Premier League meeting with Burnley.
Mourinho may choose to withhold the Belgian for the time being, considering his struggles at the weekend and the fact that he had to be withdrawn during the game. United have several midfield options that they can call upon in his stead; neither Michael Carrick or Morgan Schneiderlin have started a Premier League game this season, and both would be willing and ready to line-up alongside Ander Herrera should the need arise. As such, it might be wise to delay Fellaini’s return for the time being, and turn to one of United’s more under-utilised options in the centre of the pitch. Given how Fellaini fared at the weekend, it seems a wise move.