Marouane Fellaini has found life hard ever since his big-money move ( £27.5m) to Manchester United in the summer. Constant injury problems haven’t helped his cause and he has spent the best part of three months on the sidelines due to a wrist injury and only returned to Premier League action against Crystal Palace this past Saturday.
His injuries have meant that he has managed only 9 Premier League appearances so far this season, but he was really impressive on his return at Selhurst Park. This will give David Moyes a selection headache on whether to play Fellaini from the start in their midweek Champions League encounter with Olympiakos.
Against Palace, Fellaini dominated the midfield along with Michael Carrick as he moved around continuously to make himself available for passes. He was everywhere the ball was and always looked to create that passing option for other players when they were being pressed by positioning himself in small pockets of space between opposition players.
His role was simple- to keep the play ticking on from a midfield role and he operated that to perfection. Compared to Carrick, he was the more advanced midfielder and he got forward when United were in possession and in decent areas, especially on the right half of the pitch. He linked up well with Juan Mata and almost always was present as an out ball when needed.
He was tidy but unspectacular in his passing as he managed to find the intended target with 65 out of his 71 passes (92% pass completion rate) and kept the play ticking over, allowing the more creative players ahead of him to do the fancy work. He did his bit defensively as well, making 4 interception, as well as making 7 clearances, mostly from opposition corners.
While his heading let him down for once, he won only 3 out of the 9 attempted headed duels, he was strong in the tackles he made and managed to win all 3 of the tackles that he attempted, two of which were in the attacking third of the pitch. He also had a 100% success rate in the 2 take-ons he attempted in the Palace half. His shooting was a bit disappointing though as he managed to hit the target from any of his 3 attempts.
While Fellaini’s performance was not outstanding or eye-catching, he performed his role brilliantly in the middle of the park by ticking over the possession s evidenced by his incredibly high passing accuracy. This will most certainly have put him in front of Tom Cleverley in the midfield pecking order even though whether Moyes picks him to start against Olympiakos is another question altogether.
Fellaini has done what he was asked to do, and now all he can do is wait for the next chance to arrive where he can go out there and do the job once again. It’s not pretty, but its effective. That is exactly what United need in the run-in if they are to have any chances of securing of a European spot, and Fellaini will certainly be an important member of the team in that process if the performance against Palace is anything to go by.
Stats and heat maps taken from squawka