Former Manchester United and Liverpool striker Michael Owen has praised Jose Mourinho for playing Marouane Fellaini to his strengths this season.
It was thought by many that Fellaini, following his abysmal substitute appearance at Goodison Park in December, had reached the end of his tether at Old Trafford, with some reports claiming that a move to AC Milan was on the cards.
But Mourinho was quick to express his support for the Belgian in light of the reports and went on to hand him a contract extension earlier this year.
And Owen believes that the 29-year-old has benefitted further from being used in the right way under Mourinho.
“There is no point playing him unless you’re going to use him to his strengths. That’s what Manchester United have done,” he said.
“Jose Mourinho warned us before the game how he was going to play. Manchester United were going to go direct and more aggression.
“It is a throwback to his Everton days because he used to play high up the field more often. You’d ping that ball up to him and he’d shrug them off and bring it down on his chest and you can start playing from there.”
The Louis van Gaal era was a time of ambiguity for many United players and Fellaini was by no means spared. There was that goal against West Bromwich Albion – his first real contribution in a red shirt; then there was a dramatic drop in potency – with that FA Cup defeat against Arsenal springing to mind – before another revival and then, yes, another drop. Repeat the same kind of pattern and you’ve summed up ‘Fellaini under van Gaal’.
This time around, however, Fellaini has a specific function in this current side: as an occasional physical presence, used in games that require more brawn than brain. Not very spectacular, I know, but at least we have a clear perception of his role under Mourinho.