After his big money move from Everton on transfer deadline day, Marouane Fellaini has struggled to make an impact at Manchester United. Fellaini has had an injury plagued season and has not lived up to his price tag even when he has been fit. However, he showed some of what he is capable of bringing to this United side in the match against West Brom.
Fellaini took more touches than any other Manchester United player (100). That was all, the Belgian International made more interceptions (5), more possession wins in the midfield (6), and won more aerial duels (4) than any other Manchester United player. He completed 64 of his 71 attempted passes (90%) and completed more passes in his own half (34) than any other player. Defensively, Fellaini made eight clearances, five of which were headed clearances, won three of his four tackles, and won six of his 11 ground duels.
Fellaini was brought in as a defensive midfielder and played that role perfectly against West Brom. The £27m summer signing for Manchester United ran around the middle third of the pitch constantly to win the ball back. Fellaini and Michael Carrick formed a great axis in front of the back four and between them made nine ball recoveries in the game. Both protected the back four with Fellaini winning possession six times in the midfield and Carrick won it seven times. That axis gave the more forward thinking midfielders, like Mata, Rooney and Januzaj, more freedom to go forward and gave them the ability to focus on their attacking duties. David Moyes put out a lineup with Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata as the two wingers. Those two players both like to come inside a lot, meaning the flanks are exposed, and generally don’t like to defend, again leaving the flanks exposed.
The axis of Fellaini and Carrick protected this possible weakness and allowed those talented players to be positive and show the attacking talent they have without being exposed on the break. Looking at Fellaini’s heat map, Fellaini covered for the new star man, Juan Mata, covering on the left allowing Mata to wander inside and attack. While he played in a more advanced role last season at Everton, Fellaini did curb his attacking instincts attempting only 23% of his passes in the final third, but Fellaini did make seven final third entries. United have had a weak midfield all season and they have struggled in that area, but if Fellaini can continue putting in performances like this it will help fix the problem.
Marouane Fellaini has had a difficult debut season to say the least. Fellaini has suffered from injuries, poor form, and the pressure of his huge price tag. All that said, Fellaini has shown with Everton that he is a good player and, if he can recapture some of his Everton form, he can prove himself as a Manchester United midfielder and be at least a partial remedy to United’s midfield problems.