Saturday 22 October 2016

Why me? - Fellaini tired of being made the scapegoat

Matt Law

Published 02/04/2016 | 02:30

Marouane Fellaini remains popular with his Manchester United and Belgian managers. (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Marouane Fellaini remains popular with his Manchester United and Belgian managers. (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Marouane Fellaini has proved on many occasions that he follows the instruction of his managers and nobody else. So, until Louis van Gaal tells the midfielder to change, he will not try to appease his critics.

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Just as Fellaini has disregarded the advice of his friends to be more selfish over the different roles Van Gaal has asked him to fill for Manchester United, the 28-year-old will not bow to criticism of his playing style and discipline unless the Dutchman instructs him otherwise.

He has been singled out on numerous occasions this season following poor United performances and fears a "fixation" has developed over his discipline after recent accusations of elbowing opponents in both legs of the Europa League tie against Liverpool.

But Fellaini, as he has done throughout his career, remains popular with his United and Belgium managers, who appreciate his hard work and willingness to sacrifice himself for the team.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has accused United of playing Fellaini out of position, having seen the player deployed in just about every outfield role apart from full-back, sometimes in the same game, by Van Gaal.

The player himself is philosophical. "When your manager asks you to play in a position, you have to do it," said Fellaini. "When we played against Liverpool at the start of the season, I was asked to play as a striker. It wouldn't be my choice of position, but I had to do it and we won the game. You have to just get on and deal with it.

"My best friends always say to me, 'Think about yourself first' and tell me to be more selfish. But I'm not like that. I am a professional, I am of service to the club and to the manager. My favourite position is at No 6 or No 8, but I will never have a problem with a manager because I do my job. When the manager asks me to do something, I do it."

While Fellaini rarely upsets his managers, he has had to deal with constant questions over whether he is good enough to be a Manchester United player since moving to the club with his old manager David Moyes in 2013.

Fellaini will face his former club Everton tomorrow, but he is unsure whether the fact he followed Moyes is held against him or why he is often made the scapegoat after a United defeat.

"My family care more than me," said Fellaini. "I am a professional, so I have to deal with it. I try not to listen. Sometimes it is difficult, but that is football and playing for a big club. Sometimes I don't understand it. Why me? I don't know.

"Sometimes, I say yes it is because I joined with David Moyes, sometimes I say no. The truth is, I don't know. I know one thing: a lot of people know I work hard on the pitch and, for me, that's the most important thing."

Working hard for Fellaini - who stands 6ft 5in and weighs more than 13 stone - includes being physical. When he arrived in England at Everton, the Belgian picked up 10 yellow cards in his first 17 games and was taken for a heart-to-heart with ex-referees' chief Keith Hackett by Moyes.

The meeting worked - Fellaini was booked only three times in his next 16 games - but, almost eight years later, his discipline is back under the spotlight.

Fellaini was labelled a "thug" by former Premier League referee Howard Webb, following the second leg of the Europa League tie against Liverpool in which he was accused of elbowing Roberto Firmino and Dejan Lovren. He had also faced claims he had purposely elbowed Emre Can in the first leg, but Uefa did not take any action.

"The last few games, they talk about elbows but I don't do it on purpose," said Fellaini. "I look at the ball, not my opponent. I don't want to elbow someone, there is no point. I just protect myself. Sometimes I have two or three players around me, grabbing me.

"I jumped against Liverpool with Firmino and he said I gave him an elbow. Why would I give an elbow to him? I know I will win the ball because of my size. Against Andy Carroll, it would be more difficult, but I don't need to elbow Firmino."

Fellaini worries that constant debate over his discipline will lead to him becoming targeted by opponents trying to wind him up. "There seems to be a fixation on me now," said Fellaini. "Why should I change my game if I don't even get a yellow card?

"I go home and I say to someone, 'Why didn't he book me?' Because they know and people don't talk about players grabbing me or trying to stop me. Why? I get lots of fouls on me, but it is no foul because I am physical. Because I don't go down, that is the problem as well. But I will keep playing my game. Why change? It's my game." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Man Utd v Everton, live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 1, 4.0

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