Sunday 19 November 2017

Jose Mourinho has asked the fans to show more love to Marouane Fellaini

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters

Tom Rooney

The moment Jose Mourinho was confirmed as Manchester United manager, it was widely assumed that Marouane Fellaini would be among the first to be deemed surplus to requirements but, conversely, the Portuguese has said that the afro-sporting midfielder is very much a part of his plans.

Perhaps more so than anyone, Marouane Fellaini has become the embodiment of the turgid, often calamitous, events that have unfolded at Old Trafford following Alex Ferguson’s departure just over three years ago.

Openly derided by fans and former players, the Belgian has often been the object of their frustration under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.

Indeed, his arrival in Manchester from Everton was a last ditch acquisition by Moyes and Ed Woodward after they performed so poorly in their first transfer window at the helm.

That United payed more than his buyout clause demanded, only compounded the issue further.

Towards the end of his first campaign in charge, Van Gaal yielded some impressive returns from Fellaini by deploying him as a deep lying target man, which helped United in securing the fourth Champions League spot.

Still, as the Dutchman’s tenure unravelled last term, Fellaini, as well as Memphis Depay, was once more targeted for ridicule.

Once Mourinho was drafted in, the Belgian, along with Depay, Juan Mata, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian, were all heavily favoured to be culled by the former Real boss as he sought to rebuild United in his own image.

While the transfer window is a long way from over, all of the above players remain at United and, in fact, Fellaini, Blind and Mata have featured with varying degrees of prominence.

Fellaini was selected in midfield with Ander Herrera for yesterday’s impressive 3-1 victory over Bournemouth, and each man enjoyed a fine outing.

Herrera occupied a deeper position than usual and passed wonderfully at times, while Fellaini motored from box-to-box.

Yet, it was Fellaini’s lax pass that allowed Jamie Vardy to equalise for Leicester City during United’s 2-1 Community Shield win, and Paul Pogba is likely to feature week in week out, starting with Friday’s clash with Southampton.

In that light, one would think that his stint at the club is nearing its conclusion. Not so, according to Mourinho, who has been duly impressed by what he’s seen so far from the gangly former Everton man.

"With (Marouane) Fellaini I always have the feeling that he was not loved by the general Red people. But if he plays like he’s playing now, they have to love him because he’s being so important for us," he told MUTV.

 Like he did at Wembley a week ago, Zlatan Ibrahimović conjured a fine goal - United’s third- as his immediate impact at Old Trafford looks to be the dose of brio they have so desperately lacked of late.

Yet, it has been the first of Mourinho’s quartet of signings that has impressed consistently thus far.

Eric Bailly has shown himself to be a formidable and athletic presence at the heart of United’s defence, and his nascent partnership with Blind appears very promising, which will be far from good news for Chris Smalling.

Mourinho, whose sides have consistently been defensively frugal, also praised his two centre halves, while looking to the challenges ahead.

"Bailly and Daley (Blind) played well, the midfield players had an unbelievable complement for each other.

“I’m really happy. It’s just the start; we need to improve every day. But we won and that’s the most important thing.”

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