Now all the angry little boys and girls have calmed down from their Fellaini induced rage, it’s about time we took a moment to understand why Jose Mourinho wanted to keep him and more importantly, why next season will be different in terms of how he will be used.
The first point is about why Jose would want to keep him despite the noise from some large sections of the fan base being against it. Clearly there are those amongst us that will say, without thinking (it can be hard to do sometimes) that it’s because he is well suited to Jose’s boring style of football. These people like to make false equivalences between Fellaini getting games and the likes of Anthony Martial not getting them, to prove this point. I have neither the energy nor the will to address such moronism in detail. The truth is one that everyone understands and has understood since the day he first signed for us. He offers something different.
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Every big club in Europe when building a squad wants to build one with quality and diversity. Diversity is important in a squad because over the course of a long season it is vitally important to be able to do something different when the regular modus operandi is failing. Everybody understands that this is why Fellaini is at the club. Fellaini is NOT competing with a starting berth with Anthony Martial. Genuine trepidation comes in where Fellaini is concerned, when he is not used as a “Plan B” but is starting games regularly, and not being used to his strengths. When he is used as a central midfielder and expected to fulfil the role otherwise entrusted to Pogba, Matic or Herrera is a prime example of this. That’s not his game. But when dribbling and putting in through balls is not working for 75 minutes though, and you need to start lumping the ball in the box, that’s where he is useful.
Look at what Fellaini did for Belgium vs Japan, he (along with Chadli) completely changed the game. That is how he should be used, that is how we all want him to be used… and for this coming season, that is how he WILL be used.
Why will he be used in this way this season when Jose didn’t use him that way last season… or the season before? It’s a genuine question, but can be easily addressed by the man with one name: Fred. All the noise we have heard from reliable sources this summer has been that Fred will form a partnership with Pogba and Matic this season, in a 4-3-3 formation from the outset. This looks like the type of balance in midfield that can work wonders in the big games, but in some of the lesser games you would think that Jose will revert to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, after all we do have a plethora of attacking players still on the books (and more are rumoured to come). The only way to keep those attacking players happy is to play them as much as possible, and it seems very unlikely that anyone but Fred, Pogba and Matic will fight for those 2 midfield spots. In a 4-3-3 there may be opportunities for others, especially in the case of injuries or giving Matic a rest. In this instance Jose will almost certainly pick McTominay, who he is determined to use to prove a point that he plays youngsters. He also has the physicality to play in that role.
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Pereira coming back from a loan spell in Valencia has spoken recently about being ready to fight for his United future, so when Pogba is out, he would appear to be the like-for-like alternative in terms of attacking ability. As for Fred, at the moment we still have Herrera on the books who is a very adequate alternative for his box-to-box style. This all leaves Fellaini without a midfield role, yet he must have received promises and assurances that he will get game time in order to sign that new contract. It seems only conceivable that his role will be that of defensive enforcer and/or offensive battering ram for the last 20 minutes of games that need closing out or breaking through… and no matter what anybody thinks of him, he is unquestionably the perfect man for those jobs.