Manchester United fans can’t seem to decide on Marouane Fellaini- is he a bad player, a good player, a bad player in a good system or a good player in a bad system? Nobody seems to know because it’s so difficult to tell with a player who fits in as poorly as the Belgian does. The truth is, though, that Fellaini makes United static and unable to play football at the same level, which is a perfect explanation for the lack of ball retention that he offers with the side. When the statistics are looked at on another level, though, it is easy to see that Fellaini is holding the club back from being a Manchester United side (he isn’t the sole factor, but definitely contributes to it).
Not that he’s a bad player, but he is one that needs play in a system where sides look to use him as a transitional outlet, and United plays a lot of football on the ground, which means he remains poor at it. In the nine matches Fellaini has started this season, United has scored just eleven goals, conceding the same amount in the process. Conversely, in the six games in which United started without the captain, United has scored 13 goals, conceding just five goals, and no more than one in a single match. From Fellaini’s nine starts, United have won four, drawn two and lost three, and when he hasn’t played, the Red Devils have just lost once and drawn once, winning all other matches.
While there are other factors, such as the inclusion of Juan Mata in the side, Fellaini clearly makes United less efficient as a unit, which, though cannot prove he is not of sufficient quality, is definite proof that the side is less productive with him than without. With Mata in the side from the start, United is undefeated all season. In addition, without Fellaini in the side, Paul Pogba’s average match rating is 7.98, compared to 7.3 when the Belgian is included.
Earning a 7.14 rating on average on WhoScored this season is one of many examples that he is, in fact, performing well, albeit only individually. With Fellaini in the side, there is considerably less space for the other midfielders on the pitch. The opposition are aware of the fact he can be vital in tight spaces (aerial ability), but they are also aware that Paul Pogba poses a considerable threat in space, while Fellaini offers almost none. Offensively, in the Premier League, Fellaini averages 1 key pass, 1 dribble, less than a foul won (all per 90 minutes), and a shot every two games. With 0 goals and 0 assists to his name, it is clear how one-dimensional of an addition Fellaini is to the side from his deep midfield position.
Herrera doubles his statistics in almost every category (barring key passes, which is strange) and even has a goal to his name, not to mention 65 passes each match to Fellaini’s 55. This shows that Herrera is not only more commanding of the ball, but also more trusted with it. As the focal point of the side, Herrera can bring the best out of everyone else, while Fellaini clearly can’t, and the former is developing even further as a player while the Belgian is struggling to maintain his individual form as his overall play wanes.
To conclude, Fellaini is a statistical and tactical detriment to Manchester United, despite being a good player individually. In the right side, one in which he is used as a transitional outlet to keep the ball from goalkeeper distributions and then run into the box to occupy defenders, he becomes a nightmare to defend against. However, United will not be playing in said systems under Mourinho, because those types of systems are limited against the best sides, and therefore, Fellaini should not be part of the side. He has been a good player for the club, but it is time to move on and use his spot for a player who could be more important in the future.