How do you solve a problem like Fellaini?
When David Moyes first arrived at Old Trafford, one of his first tasks was to fill the gaping hole in central midfield that Sir Alex Ferguson had left him with. After continuously failing to address the issue, a lot of noise emanated from Old Trafford that the club were on the search for a new midfield maestro.
Throughout the summer, the likes of Fabregas, Herrara and Khedeira flirted with the prospected of moving to Manchester United but all those deals fell through rather embarrassingly. In an attempt to save face, Moyes went back to Finch Farm and purchased a trusted Premier League performer in Fellaini. At the time, the purchase of a central midfielder was imperative, regardless of the cost, and he did not seem like the worst option at the time. Now however, it seems to have caused more problems than it has solved.
Is Fellaini a Defensive Midfielder?
Bar an appearance as a time waster extraordinaire, Fellaini has more often than not been sent out to play as the deepest of a midfielder four- a position he has been quoted as saying he wants to play. The reality however is that he quite simply lacks the ability to learn the role at his age it seems.
Thus far, he has shown a blatant disregard for defensive responsibility. When told to sit back and protect the back four, he seems unable to ignore his kamikaze instinct to get forward and in the box. By doing so, he has accelerated the ball forward and left himself out of position when the opposition break.
Then, in an attempt to regain possession, he has lacked the athleticism and control to atone for his errors, often looking off the pace and damn right reckless. Only when he is released from defensive responsibilities has he looked like a player with any future potential at the club.
Does Fellaini Compliment our Style of Play?
Although much criticism has been aimed at Tom Cleverley this season, he cannot be criticised for failing to try and do the right thing with the ball this season. His primary concern has been to retain possession and try to facilitate short and sharp interplay between midfield and attack. Clearly, he has failed massively in this aim and technically he may quite simply not be up to scratch. However, the important thing in the context of this argument is that he has tried to the right thing.
Felliani, on the other hand, seems lost in the midfield. Having worked under Moyes for the past few years, it is hardly surprising that he has failed to embrace the type of football that United fans want to see. Instead, he has looked nervous, impatient and edgy on the ball. Hopefully this is the result of him trying to do much and over-compensate for his underwhelming initial performance but a lack of technical ability seems like something that may massively hamper his progress into the side.
Can Moyes play him in his Best Position?
Regardless of how lofty his ambitions are to play as defensive midfielder, the 6ft 8″ Belgium’s most effective position in games of Premier League football is undoubtedly centre-forward. Challenging defenders for the ball, holding up play and causing general mayhem in the box were the things that earned him notoriety as a nuisance whenever he came up against any of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
However, Moyes is all too aware that he knows he can’t or shouldn’t deploy him in this position. Not only would it mean displacing one of United’s many world-class forwards, it would mean fully embracing the long ball football that he has so tried so hard to avoid this season. As such, the Scot has found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place as he tries to balance United’s footballing philosophy with the reality of his latest signing. Hopefully, given time and training, it is a conflict that will be capable of resolving itself.