There were plenty of reasons to be frustrated with Manchester United’s 3-3 draw with Newcastle United but the mere fact Marouane Fellaini was still on the pitch after a full 90 minutes is one that has stuck with me.
The Belgian midfielder was lucky not to have been sent off in the first half after a string of needless fouls saw him booked by Mike Dean and on the verge of a red card. Despite that, Louis van Gaal didn’t take him off at half-time and United’s boss then left fans genuinely stunned when he took off Ander Herrera for Juan Mata after 75 minutes.
Fellaini has gone full circle. At the start of his United career he was ridiculed and fans groaned every time he was in the team, then he went through a mini-renaissance and earned fans’ support back but now he is firmly at the wrong end of the spectrum. He can hardly string two passes or tackles together and we’re suffering because of it. If we want to have any chance of beating Liverpool on Sunday, Fellaini has got to take his place on the bench.
He’s not a central midfielder and never will be. The quicker van Gaal realises that the better because he’s genuinely hurting the team by playing Fellaini there and Liverpool fans will be laughing if he starts in the heart of midfield on Sunday.
When you take a look at the statistics of how United have played with and without Fellaini in the Premier League this season, they really paint a picture and make it almost impossible to justify his selection.
P10 W2 D3 L5 Win 20%
P10 W7 D3 L0 Win 70%+ and unbeaten
Here’s a full breakdown of those games so you can give yourself some more context as to what matches he has and hasn’t played.
Fellaini hasn’t worked his way through a career and been signed by Man United for no reason at all. We’ve all got memories of how good he used to be for Everton when used correctly but therein lies the problem – van Gaal isn’t using him correctly.
We’re starting him in central midfield, expecting him to be able to play neat football, break up the opposition and keep things ticking over. It’s not what he’s good at. We all know that. Van Gaal knows that. Yet, that’s where has been playing but he’s about as useful as a tree there.
Play Fellaini just off the striker in the last 15 minutes of a game when you need to switch up your approach and you’ll get the most out of him. Ask him to play intricate football and you’re shooting yourself in the foot unnecessarily, something van Gaal is becoming very astute at.
There are plenty of problems in this current squad which are not fixable right now but one thing we can do is not make our own job even more difficult unnecessarily. With that in mind, Fellaini simply has to be dropped and never start in central midfield again.