Having taken some deserved flak after a poor start to his time at Manchester United, Marouane Fellaini has since been unable to win over the Old Trafford faithful. But the stats suggest that the Belgian is deserving of more praise – and affection – than he’s given by some United fans.
Despite a reputation for clumsiness, the 29-year-old has been anything but on the ball. In his 21 Premier League appearances this term, the former Evertonian has recorded a hugely impressive 88 per cent pass completion rate.
And it’s not just like he’s playing simple, short passes. The average length of those balls? 15 metres.
Add to that the fact he’s won comfortably more than half of his duels in games this season, and created a number of chances for the United front-men – and a picture emerges of a player far better than most fans give him credit for.
The Belgian is also proving himself to be useful in front of goal, and having netted five goals in 35 games last term, he’s rekindled his scoring form in 2017 – with vital goals in three different competitions.
His bullet header to open the scoring against Wigan Athletic settled the nerves in an Emirates FA Cup clash, while his neat nod home against Hull City in the EFL Cup Semi-Finals was crucial in helping United reach Wembley.
But in terms of technique, it was Sunday’s opener against Middlesbrough which best highlighted the towering midfielder’s quality. He showed brilliant movement to find space in the Boro box, before nodding over Victor Valdes.
However, the Belgian’s biggest asset under Jose Mourinho has probably been his ability to help United see games out.
Having struggled to hold onto leads earlier in the season, the Portuguese gaffer has increasingly turned to Fellaini to come off the bench and preserve his side’s advantage – something he helped do to great effect against the likes of Rostov and Watford, breaking up opposition attacks and holding the ball up.
Whether or not United fans can overlook the midfielder’s poor start to life at Old Trafford and association with the disastrous David Moyes era remains to be seen. But his current displays suggest it’s about time they did.
Next up for the Red Devils is a home clash against West Bromwich Albion, after the international break. Mourinho’s men are 2/7 for victory, while 9/2 says they record a third 2-0 win in four meetings with the Baggies.
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