Even if Manchester United obviously overpaid for Marouane Fellaini, their need for that kind of player and the value of his eventual contribution might make this signing a lot better than what its being given credit for.
For the last two or three years, probably since the team lost to Barcelona 3-1 in the 2011 Champions League final, Alex Ferguson has been hearing and talking about improving the central midfielder position. Even without that one signing he’s been looking for, United were an inch away from winning the league title in 2012 and won it convincingly (at least on points, not on style) in 2013.
But their failures in the Champions League over the last two seasons – failing to make it out of the group stage followed by a round of 16 exit against Real Madrid were further proof that the team needs to be upgraded in the midfield in order to once again be considered one of the elite clubs in Europe.
So many words have been written about the follies of the club in the transfer window, it’s getting old. But it’s worth remembering that David Moyes only landed the job on the day the transfer window opened. United didn’t want to pay Everton a high compensation fee, and by that damaged their preseason preparations and their ability to make quick decisions in the transfer market.
Fellaini was always on their mind, but they preferred other players. By overlooking the obvious and easy choice – first by missing out on the £23 million release clause time frame and then by low-balling Everton with offers they knew wouldn’t be accepted, they only got themselves in some sort of jam and had to pay more for the same product.
Fellaini brings midfield toughness with aerial ability that’s very rare for a central midfielder and a lot of attacking prowess. He isn’t the most brilliant of passers or dribbles, but makes up for it with his tackling and physicality in the middle of the pitch. For a team that needed a much stronger presence than Cleverley or Anderson to put next to Carrick, Fellaini seems like a good fit.
The questions? Is Fellaini someone that on a bigger stage will play better? Eventually, he wasn’t a superstar on Everton, which means United might not have made that much of an improvement considering their Premier League chances. The other is him fitting in against Champions League clubs. For once, their group isn’t very easy, yet still should be one they come out on top in: Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad. Fellaini will be tested against them, but his real exam begins after United (if) make it into the next round.