Marouane Fellaini feels he was made a scapegoat for David Moyes's troubled 11-month reign as Manchester United manager and admits his confidence could have been destroyed at Old Trafford.
Fellaini found it difficult to justify his £27.5m price tag after quitting Everton to be reunited with Moyes in Manchester last year, yet he felt he was never judged fairly in a team who were collectively floundering in the wake of Alex Ferguson's retirement.
The Belgium international has been restored to the starting line-up by Louis van Gaal, Moyes's successor, and while United are still failing to replicate the success of the Ferguson era, Fellaini has slowly begun to persuade legions of doubters that he was not a waste of money.
"I felt like a scapegoat a little bit," said Fellaini, who was the only player signed by Moyes last summer. "But I'm determined to show the real me. That is why David Moyes bought me. He knew my qualities. He knew what I can do and that is why I am here.
"There was never any danger I would leave. It was all speculation. In football it is like this. I signed for Manchester United for four years and the manager (Van Gaal) never said to me that I had to go so I worked for my place and that was it. I agree last season was tough. There was a new manager and it was difficult for all the players, but we have another new manager now with a new philosophy and we have to work hard."
Expectations have fallen, but Fellaini's form has improved and he revealed being part of the Belgium squad at the World Cup helped repair the damage done during an arduous first season as a United player.
"I didn't lose faith in myself. In football you have to be strong in the head. The mentality is important and I do have this quality so I can keep going. I am also fit now.
"My family helped me through it. I was also in the national team for Belgium at the World Cup and I played well and the team played well. For my confidence that was important. The manager of the national team and the players helped me and it was a great experience for everybody.
"I came back after the summer confident. The manager said I would have to fight if I wanted to play. I did fight and trained hard and that was it. When I got my chance I tried to show myself and tried to do my best."
Although he has rediscovered some form, Fellaini is aware United are still some way short of the standards set by Ferguson. "It is about organisation and keeping the ball better," he added
"You have to close down when you lose the ball. When you bring in a new manager, you have to wait because it is not easy to bring in a new philosophy but we are working hard.
"The manager has a lot of meetings to help us improve, so we will see what happens in time." (© Daily Telegraph, London)