Louis van Gaal has leapt to the defence of Marouane Fellaini after fans cheered the Manchester United midfielder’s substitution in yesterday’s FA Cup draw with West Ham United.
Fellaini was withdrawn 76 minutes into the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, in which Anthony Martial’s late equaliser salvaged United a replay after Dimitri Payet’s outstanding free-kick.
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Van Gaal felt that the Belgian put in a good performance. The home supporters may not have agreed, but the United manager was disappointed that they made their feelings known in that way.
“I think Fellaini played a good match again. He performed well in our gameplan,” he told Sky Sports.
“That was disappointing but that was the only moment I was disappointed with because they were supporting our side in spite of two losses this week. Maybe they have another opinion to me.”
It is easy to see why United fans might be frustrated with Fellaini’s inclusion. During his recent period on the sidelines, the Red Devils won four matches in a row across three different competitions.
Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera were the central midfield pair in the Premier League wins over Arsenal and Watford, and the cup thrashings of Shrewsbury Town and FC Midtjylland.
United have not won any of their three games since Van Gaal split up the pair. Fellaini started the Europa League defeat to Liverpool as well as the draw with West Ham, in a holding-midfield role.
The Red Devils have won only 10 out of the 27 games that Fellaini has featured in this season. That is a 37% win percentage compared to the team’s overall win percentage of 48% in all competitions.
If Van Gaal was disappointed by the cheers, perhaps he should consider that United fans were disappointed to see a successful midfield partnership separated to accommodate a glorified target man.
Fellaini’s only use to United is as a battering ram in the opposing box. The same physicality actually makes him a liability in midfield – in terms of his immobility and recklessness in the tackle.
He should certainly never be utilised in a deeper role than Herrera, who has sufficient ball skills for United to play through him, and a controlled level of combativeness that Fellaini is missing.
The Spaniard is also capable of making unchecked late runs into the box. Fellaini is 6ft 5in and has a giant afro – he cannot go unchecked! And he, nor Van Gaal, can hide from the Old Trafford jeers.