The needs of Manchester United fans are not always the same as their wants.
After ‘Thiago Fever’ gripped The Faithful, during an ongoing media campaign that claimed we had all but signed the player, and the ‘Fabregas Farce’ which allegedly saw Cesc consider coming to Old Trafford, despite him never publicly making any such overtones and his club showing little willing to sell, United fans are feeling all hard done by and dare I say it – almost jealous – when looking at our peers in and around Europe. The jokes about Moyes going back to Everton to capture a Hibbert or a Anichebe are rife, but with fewer reasons of humour, and more reasons of loading the proverbial shotgun, should the new manager not pull a transfer ace out the bag.
As football fans of course we crave excitement – and at a club like Man Utd, we want to sign the very best. However, this has never been the United way. Our last thirty million pound plus signing was Dimitar Berbatov, and I think it is fair to say that you would not really call him a ‘superstar signing’. A section of our fanbase will not be prepared to go into battle next year unless we acquire a Cesc or a Thiago. This is down to either being too short-sighted to the squad we all ready have, or more importantly, to the other transfer targets we could acquire. It is a bit like last year, where we got Kagawa and not Hazard, and some quarters will always be more bothered that Shinji is not Eden, rather than what the Japanese lad can do with a ball at his feet. The green-eyed monsters run free…
Despite ‘wanting’ this stellar name, there are certain more sterile needs of the squad. None of us really know what formation Moyes will play over the next season, but it no doubt will fall somewhere between 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 variation. Sticking in a Fabregas works nicely with the later, but not really the former. The ‘traditional United way’ formation would not suit the Spaniard one bit. No doubt his skill set would dictate he could play it, but would that be some sort of a waste of talent on a weekly basis?
For me… and what seems like the rest of the planet, United’s huge weakness is central midfield. Somehow, almost single-handed, Michael Carrick has managed to hold together this part of tha park, with stunning results and championship trophies. But you can’t ignore that it was only five minutes ago that we had to drag an old ginger wizard out of his retirement home, to weave his spells on opponents and deliver his magnificent range of tackling skills in battle. Manchester United have won trophies very much despite of our midfield rather than because of it. Anderson has shown he has little future. Tom Cleverley struggled to kick on hard last year. Nick Powell did not even get a sniff despite having amazing maturity and skill. Fletcher is still ill. And Paul Pogba, who was perfect for our needs, was helped gently out the door into the arms of an Italian old lady. That only leaves Phil Jones, who as a midfielder I am a huge advocate of. But it is likely his future is in defence, and because he can’t ping a ball like Beckham, some fans think he is not worthy of the position.
So who is the answer to our midfield woes? Many have started to bang the drum about Gundogan from Dortmund, and he would be an ace signing. But I think the answer lies closer to home, and closer to David Moyes’ circle.
Marouane Fellaini is no stranger to The Faithful, having been the architect of our end of season collapse in 2012, battering our midfield to a pulp, and banging four past us at Old Trafford. He is uncompromising and no shrinking violet. He doesn’t have the style that United fans like in our midfielders, and he can be dirty as hell. All of these are reasons as to why we need him…
United have tried the diminutive midfielder in the middle approach. Weve even considered playing Rooney or Kagawa there, even though they simply are not conventional midfielders. In a 4-4-2 ideally you need a box-to-box player, or in a 4-2-3-1 you need a player with the discipline to sit beside Carrick and do a job.
Fellaini can be that player.
There is no doubt that his goal and assist record for Everton has been outstanding the past twelve months, but he was very much deployed off the front man, rather than central midfield. But it is central midfield that is his position, and his future. United have missed a physical presence as an option in the centre of the park. Of course, we have won trophies over the post Roy Keane years, but if anyone wanted a midfield war with us, all we could do is sit back on the edge of our defence and hold the line. I’ve always said United need to find their Yaya Toure. I think he alone took City to the next level. You can buy all the flash attackers and monster centrebacks that money can attain, but unless you have that midfield general, you will always be tactically compromised in certain situations. The closest thing to Yaya for me is Luiz or Fellaini. It is fair to say Yaya has more pace than the Everton man, and that Luiz can pass the ball better than both, but it is more about fulfilling the concept and criteria of the position. The Belgian can no doubt do this.
There are plenty of positives to note on the potential signing of Fellaini. The defensive and offensive edge he will offer at set pieces. The physical aid he can offer Carrick. A tough unit, who can score goals. Comedy hair. The list is endless. I totally get why some United fans do not see him as the answer. He is not a big name. He is the opposite of ‘flair’. But our squad is packed full of creativity, especially if you take into account the youth that is now on the verge of first team football. If the likes of Januzaj and Powell are to be the inventive hub of our very near future, it is steel that we should be adding right now. In those two lads, added to Zaha, Young, Valenecia, RvP, Chico, Welbeck, Rooney (if he can be arsed to stay), Nani (hmm) and most importantly Kagawa…we have more than enough creativity to see us through. What we do NOT have is ten tonne truck, who indeed will pick up bookings and suspensions, but will also scare the life out of opponents, as they debate what they can actually do to battle him.
United fans will continue to pray for a stellar signing, and look up towards the stars. But sometimes you need something practical. There is no use in building a weapon like jet fighter plane, unless you give it the engine it needs, to fly high and destroy its chosen targets. Fellaini can be Manchester United’s engine for many years to come. And the irony? United fans will love him for that…