Opinion: The fighter in Fellaini deserves more credit than it gets

Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini has always been a much-criticized figure at Old Trafford, but its time he gets the appreciation that he deserves

Opinion: The fighter in Fellaini deserves more credit than it gets
The Belgian was signed by David Moyes in 2013. | Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images

Marouane Fellaini has never been a fan favourite. Period.

The big afro-haired giant has always been at the receiving end of stick from the faithful. Be it the section of rival fans or the section of fans of the club that he plays for, the Belgian has racked up enough criticism and condemnation to outclass someone like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo's list of honours and accolades. Be it an elbow on an opponent or a mere error on or off the ball that could've led to a chance, Fellaini is usually in the infamous lap of tortures of the fans the media alike.

Even if the former Everton man ends up doing well in a game or in a certain amount of games, people will look at the impressive performances of others rather than applauding the big midfielder for his efforts. And the tag of being a 'scapegoat' for Manchester United's failures before the currently prevailing Jose Mourinho era had been appended to Fellaini's name, sometimes unfairly.

His aerial ability, strength and heading are traits that often help United win games, but the errors he commits on the ball are the most magnified of all. And the fans often heap a large amount of blame on Fellaini, undeservingly so. But now it's time he gets the amount of credit and respect that he essentially deserves.

Fellaini should be given credit for his vital contributions

Jose Mourinho's era at Old Trafford has kicked off in some style. Four wins from his opening four games at the helm have yielded enough praise from the spectators, fans and pundits, which is enough to suggest that the Mourinho-magic is probably taking over the Old Trafford faithful. The former Real Madrid, Chelsea, Inter and Porto boss has seemingly imposed his style over the new side and the acquisitions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and three-time Man of the Match winner Eric Bailly have overshadowed a majority of things that are transpiring at the club, barring the gratifying results. The heroics of Ibrahimovic and the four goals he has racked in five appearances for the Red Devils has already made him a United hero, while Paul Pogba's moves that ooze swagger and unerring confidence have already won over the Manchester United fans.

Pogba and Zlatan have overshadowed Fellaini's presence
Pogba and Zlatan have overshadowed Fellaini's presence. Photo: Getty Images

Amidst all the good that the club is currently viewing with expectation and with a hope that the good old days are back, it's Fellaini's contributions that are being overlooked.

Brought in as David Moyes' only prominent capture in the summer of 2013, alongside Saidy Janko and Guillermo Varela, Fellaini's association with the ill-fated campaign of 2013-14 under his former mentor has become a long-held grudge now. Having arrived from Everton on deadline day for a £27.5 million fee, after Moyes had failed to land the top targets, Fellaini scored only once for the Red Devils. His tally of 16 appearances and no goals that season, when placed in juxtaposition to 34 appearances and 11 goals for the Toffees was used as a mocking stick to make use of when it came to lashing out at Fellaini. And the fact that his tarnished reputation of elbowing and using improper means when scoring had already made him a loathed figure in the Premier League played a part too. His header against United in the opening game of 2012-13 campaign had made sure that United fans never looked at Fellaini with any glint of reverence or optimism.

Fellaini suffering from memories of Moyes' ill-fated era

The seventh-placed finish and more than forgettable era of David Moyes was something that Fellaini was being made the eventual scapegoat of, much like Tom Cleverley. And the Louis van Gaal era, which sometimes seemed to make the fans lose interest in watching United games, was something that witnessed Fellaini play regularly. There came a point in the van Gaal era when the Iron Tulip admitted that the Belgian has to start for him, much to the surprise of the United fans, who saw his errors as being more important to judge rather than his goals, ability to carry the ball out of crowded areas and the tendency to recover balls in the midfield. 

A lot of attention has been afforded to his elbow on Robert Huth last season, much like his poor performances. Few have lauded him for playing a vital role in helping United win the FA Cup last season. The Belgian came up with a near-Man of the Match performance against West Ham in the quarter-final and against Everton in the semi-final, but what people have been intent on bashing him for his elbow on Robert Huth against Leicester. More so, Fellaini's involvement in the final for the whole of 120 minutes was one of the reasons why United won the final 2-1 in extra time. Jesse Lingard gets an enormous amount of credit when Fellaini deserves an almost equal amount of it for helping United win the Cup..

Fellaini was one of the reasons why Manchester United won the FA Cup. Photo: Getty via Mirror

As things stand, Fellaini has slotted in straight away in the midfield under Mourinho. His impressive showings throughout the four games, of which he played all ninety minutes, haven't made him get as much appreciation as the number of rebukes he got after his back pass "assist" to Jamie Vardy in the Community Shield clash against Leicester. Even in that game, which United won 2-1, Fellaini played really well, barring that loss of concentration.

Alongside Pogba, Fellaini has donned the role of being the sitting midfield player, who shields the back four to perfection and wins a lot of battles in the heart of the park. And bad, frail passing is something he has been lashed out at a lot for, but from his recent statistics, it's clear that his passing has improved. His passing accuracy is currently 90.8 percent, which is quite impressive indeed.

Fellaini starts season in impressive fashion

He has won 3.7 tackles every game, making 1.3 interceptions per game too. And much like how his usual statistics go, he has won 3.7 aerial duels every game this season.

Although Eric Bailly and Daley Blind have been very good at the back ever since the season began, but Fellaini is one of the reasons as to why they've not had a lot to do at the back. His ability to use his strength, muscle and body when sitting in front of back is something that Mourinho prefers to have in his side, judging by the examples of his inclusion of Sami Khedira, Lassana Diarra, Claude Makelele and Nemanja Matic in the sides that he has previously managed. While Fellaini does the job of cutting out danger at the back, Pogba does the box to box job of supplying the ball forward and dictating play.

The duo of Pogba and Fellaini in the heart of the park is something that the Premier League must be scared of. The mere size of the duo is something that will strike fear into the minds of the opposition and the performances will just add to their woes. And the Frenchman is currently taking the spotlight at a time when the man who plays alongside him and the man who has fought against the whole world to prove that he's good enough for the club deserves just as much.

Shy off the pitch, but a beast on it, Fellaini has hardly shown signs of going away from the club, despite being the loathed player at Old Trafford. He has fought his way through a lot. More than a player would usually get at his own club. High points of his stint at the club have been overshadowed by the low ones. But defying the odds, the Belgian has proved time and time again that mentally and emotionally, he isn't shy to express his desire to fight for himself. And it' time this determined fighter gets his due credit.