Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini scored two goals for Belgium, as the Red Devils comfortably won 5-0 against Cyprus in the Euro 2016 qualifier. The brace against Cyprus and his recent performances for Manchester have capped a much-improved season for the former Everton man. Under new United manager Louis van Gaal, Fellaini has been showcasing the form that led to predecessor David Moyes initially signing him from his former club, and is showing no signs of stopping.
“He can play several positions – a No.6, No.8 or even as a second forward – but he has to play in the centre of the pitch. Marouane was always in my squad list and he played a lot of games. He is a really important player for the Belgian team with a really good mentality. He always gives everything for our team and I have always believed in him,” said Belgium manager Marc Wilmots.
The 27-year-old struggled in his debut season at Old Trafford, failing to inspire fans and teammates alike. He showed little to no signs of quality to vindicate the transfer amount spent to sign him. Fellaini failed to score a league goal throughout the 2013/14 campaign, despite finishing with 11 league goals from 31 Premier League games in 2012/13 under Moyes at Everton.
During his Everton days, his aerial presence, strong physique, and impressive eye for goal were the main features of his playing style which made him standout, yet as a midfield player he often received criticism for a lack of work rate.
Last season, he offered little in the way of protection for his teammates, as Moyes tried to utilise Fellaini as a holding-midfielder alongside Michael Carrick. At Old Trafford, it simply didn’t work, as the Belgian was poor, and looked particularly uncomfortable when receiving the ball in deep areas & attempting to push forward up the pitch.
It’s all changed this season, however, with Fellaini used higher up the pitch to be a real attacking threat. Van Gaal has been bold with the midfielder, and his faith in the talented individual has been paying off. The Dutch coach was full of praise for Fellaini, and believes his form has been key to Manchester United’s successful season.
“Fellaini has qualities that in this moment he can contribute a lot, and that’s why he is playing. He also allows me to give balance to the team and that’s important. That’s important for a manager who is looking for the balance of the team. He’s also a player who can give a solution for beating the opponents when they’re pressing, and that’s also a contribution, but he has more contributions. I think he has to play higher (up the pitch),” he said.
Will Fellaini continue to blossom at Manchester with van Gaal at the helm?