Marouane Fellaini

Fellaini Could be a Useful Striker, Just Not on His Own

Central midfielder Marouane Fellaini was deployed as a makeshift lone striker in Manchester United’s 3-1 win over arch enemy Liverpool last Saturday and was largely ineffective, but he could be useful in that role in the future.

Wayne Rooney’s injury and Louis van Gaal’s reluctance to expose new signing Anthony Martial, the world’s most expensive teenager at £36 million, to a debut start against one of United’s fiercest rivals led to Fellaini’s inclusion up front.

Initially it seemed that van Gaal may have been naïve to offload forwards Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie this summer to Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen and Fenerbahce of Turkey respectively, but a strong second half performance, including a stunning goal from the aforementioned new boy Martial off the bench, secured the three points for the Red Devils.

The first half at Old Trafford was a tame, tedious and tepid affair that largely reflected an afternoon kick-a-bout at the local park rather than a red hot derby clash that stretches back decades and was once upon a time the encounter that decided titles and trophies.

Fellaini looked isolated up front and through balls were going astray as he simply did and does not have the speed to get to them. The passes were begging out for the pace of Martial to run onto and create goal scoring opportunities, and he probably would have had a lot of joy too, as the Liverpool back four of Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez failed to win a single tackle in the first half.

United were a different team after the interval, they ripped Liverpool apart with three second half goals. Daley Blind’s cultured, curled finish came just five minutes after the break before Ander Herrera’s penalty and Martial’s well taken goal with his first shot in a United shirt finished Brendan Rodgers’ side off after Christian Benteke’s outrageous overhead kick got them back in it at 2-1.

Despite the complete change in United’s display in the second half, Fellaini’s was very much more of the same, as he failed to make an impact and was not involved in any of the goals scored by the home side.

As part of a two though, Fellaini could be a great option as a striker.

Attribute wise, Fellaini would work perfectly as a target man. His six foot, four inch frame makes him a handful for any defender in an aerial sense, and the Belgian does have a reputation for using his elbows, which, although dangerous play and a risky strategy, it did work well for traditional English striker Alan Shearer – the Premier League’s all-time top goal scorer, formerly of Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United.

Fellaini and Martial could work in a partnership similar to that of Emile Heskey and Michael Owen for Liverpool in the 2000-2001 campaign that saw the Reds win the treble of the League Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup (Robbie Fowler played instead of Owen in the League Cup).

Although not renowned for his goal scoring ability, Heskey did net 14 that season, but was most used to link up play and knocking long balls down to Owen which led to the then 21-year-old winning the Ballon d’Or.

Contrary to perception, Fellaini does know where the back of the net is. With 14 goals in 63 caps for the Belgium national team he is the joint 21st record scorer for the side now ranked second in the world. Fellaini has found the back of the net six times in his last four outings in a Belgium shirt.

In the bag: Fellaini scores a spectacular equaliser against West Brom

In the bag: Fellaini scores a spectacular equaliser against West Brom

Goals have come in a large amount for the man who sports a unique afro at club level too. When used as a number 10 at Everton during the 2012-13 season he ended up on the scoresheet on no less than 11 occasions in 31 games. During that campaign he managed to score against the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and current club Manchester United.

He was also United’s joint fourth top scorer last season with six goals, one of which was a fierce piledriver from just inside the box against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.

If he is given enough game time, Fellaini could even adjust to being a lone striker, but for now van Gaal has to introduce him slowly, using Rooney or Martial as an out-and-out strike partner, otherwise the man signed by David Moyes could well be accused of being a Manchester United flop once again.

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West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Manchester United

A late Daley Blind strike rescued a point for Champions League chasing Manchester United at the Hawthorns as the Red Devils dropped to sixth in the table.

Blind’s effort, coming in the 87th minute, denied West Bromwich Albion a famous win over Louis Van Gaal’s side with a curling shot from the edge of the box after the Baggies’ back line failed to efficiently clear a cross from the right.

West Brom twice took the lead, firstly when Stephane Sessegnon blasted home with a strike that flew into the top corner giving David De Gea no chance in the Manchester United goal just eight minutes into the match.

Marouane Fellaini pulled United level three minutes after the half time break, smashing an unstoppable shot past stand in Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

Saido Berahino regained West Brom’s lead with 24 minutes left on the clock after substitute Fellaini’s equaliser, Chris Brunt’s intelligent through ball picked out this season’s top English scorer in the Premier League so far and he calmly slotted the ball past De Gea after losing his marker Phil Jones.

Robin Van Persie came closest without scoring for the visitors when his rasping volley hit the inside of the post, bouncing out to deny the Dutchman a place on the score sheet.

The hosts only fashioned eight shots on goal (two on target) during the 90 minutes compared to United’s 22 (seven on target) but will be proud of their display, especially given their 2-1 defeat at Anfield before the international break.

West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Pocognoli, Gardner, Morrison, Sessegnon (Mulumbu ’86), Dorrans, Brunt, Berahino

Subs not used: Daniels, Gamboa, McAuley, Blanco, Ideye, Anichebe

Man United:  De Gea, Rafael, Rojo, Jones, Shaw, Blind, Herrera (Fellaini ’45), Di Maria (Young ’76), Mata (Falcao ’72), Van Persie, Januzaj

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Smalling, Fletcher, Carrick

Manchester United 2-1 Everton

Manchester United overcame Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford to secure back to back home league wins for the first time since November 2013.

Louis Van Gaal’s marquee summer signings won the game for his side with Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao scoring either side of Steven Naismith’s header.

Di Maria opened the scoring with 27 minutes played, sweeping in from just inside the area, assisted by Juan Mata after Phil Jagielka could not efficiently clear a cross from the right.

Naismith lost his marker Rafael to head home Everton’s equalizer from Leighton Baines’ cross 11 minutes into the second half but Falcao’s first goal for Manchester United seven minutes later proved to be the winner.

The Colombian was on his toes to pounce on Di Maria’s low shot and beat Tim Howard who had little chance of keeping it out.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

It could have been an entirely different story however as Baines had a penalty saved in first half stoppage time.

Tony Hibbert was brought down in the box by Luke Shaw but David De Gea saved the spot-kick which was too near the centre of the goal.

United were worthy of their win however, putting Everton on the back foot from the off. Howard having to deny a Falcao header just four minutes in.

They started the second half with the same velocity, Di Maria’s miscued shot was almost turned in by Falcao from close range but there was too much speed on it.

Everton did fashion chances of their own however. Jagielka had a header cleared off the line by Falcao from a corner before a late flurry of chances.

Substitute Leon Osman forced a superb save by De Gea in the closing stages before fellow second half sub Bryan Oviedo’s effort from the edge of box was somehow tipped over the bar by the Spaniard.

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, McNair, Rojo, Shaw (Blackett ’71), Blind, Valencia (Fellaini ’78), Di Maria, Mata, Falcao (Wilson ’73), Van Persie

Subs not used:  Lindegaard, Thorpe, Fletcher, Januzaj

Everton: Howard, Hibbert (Browning ’77), Jagielka, Stones, Baines, Barry, Besic, Pienaar (Oviedo ’64), McGeady (Osman ’77), Naismith, Lukaku

Subs not used: Joel, Gibson, Eto’o, Alcaraz

Man of the match: Angel Di Maria

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City

Swansea City earned a shock 1-2 victory over Manchester United in Louis Van Gaal’s first game in charge to deny him a positive start to life at Old Trafford.

Returning fan favourite from Tottenham Gylfi Sigurdsson won the game for the visitors when he turned in Wayne Routledge’s miscued volley with 72 minutes on the clock.

Ki Sung-Yeung initially swept the Swans in front after 28 minutes following Sigurdsson’s pass across the edge of the box.

Wilfried Bony blocked Phil Jones in an off the ball incident which prevented Ki from being closed down but referee Mike Dean ruled that there was no malice in the challenge.

Manchester United’s new captain Wayne Rooney leveled the scores after 53 minutes when he acrobatically turned in Jones’ headed knock on from a corner.

He almost doubled his tally 25 minutes from time but his free-kick clipped the outside of the post before going out for a goal kick.

Neither team were dominant in what was a match that involved very few clear cut chances.

Super Sigurdsson: Swansea's new signing celebrates winner on his return

Super Sigurdsson: Swansea’s new signing celebrates winner on his return

It was Manchester United who came closest without scoring in the first half in fortunate circumstances when Jones’ cross needed tipping over the bar by Lukasz Fabianski.

Rooney also had a tame headed effort saved easily.

Jesse Lingard had his Premier League bow cut tragically short when he was substituted on 24 minutes due to injury.

The second half was a similar story, Swansea limited the pre kick off favourites to limited opportunities while Manchester United’s weak back line was too easily exploited.

Van Gaal’s coveted 3-5-2 system was dealt with comfortably by Swansea. The pace from the likes of Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge and substitute Jefferson Montero was too hard to deal with for inexperienced wing backs Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj while Bony and Sigurdsson caused problems for Jones, Chris Smalling and youth graduate Tyler Blackett.

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Blackett, Lingard (Januzaj ’24), Fletcher, Herrera (Fellaini ’67), Young, Mata, Rooney, Hernandez (Nani ’45)

Subs not used: Amos, James, M Keane, Kagawa

Swansea City: Fabianski, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor (Tiendalli ’53) Ki, Shelvey, Dyer (Montero ’67), Sigurdsson, Routledge, Bony (Gomis ’77)

Subs not used: Tremmel, Bartley, Richards, Sheehan

Man of the match: Ashley Williams

Belgium 2-1 Algeria

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Algeria gave Belgium a scare in their Group H opener but two super subs from Marc Wilmots turned the tie around for his young side.

Marouane Fellaini dragged an under-performing Belgium level when he headed in Kevin De Bruyne’s cross twenty minutes before the end.

Belgium took the lead ten minutes later when Dries Mertens smashed home from the edge of the box after Eden Hazard set him up on the counter attack.

Algeria opened the scoring though when Sofiane Feghouli was felled in the area by Jan Vertonghen, one of three Tottenham players in the Belgium line-up. Feghouli dusted himself down and sent Thibaut Courtois the wrong way for 0-1.

Axel Witsel came relatively close for Belgium in the first half when he chested down a ball before striking it on the volley, Rais M’Bolhi produced a fine save to keep it out though.

Nacer Chadli should have brought the scores level when De Bruyne teed him up but he hit a weak shot that dribbled into M’Bohli’s arms.

Wimots’ third sub Divock Origi could have earned himself a place on the score-sheet himself when he burst through the Algerian defense with pace but his shot was saved well on 66 minutes.

Belgium were not as efficient as many had expected but were nevertheless worthy of their three points and will look to truly kick on with their campaign now and prove why they are many people’s dark horses for the tournament.