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David Moyes should make Marouane Fellaini his first Manchester United signing

Alex Livesey

Everton's Marouane Fellaini apparently has a £23 million release clause in his contract. Assuming this is true, Manchester United and their newly-appointed manager David Moyes should do all they can to trigger it and make the big-haired Belgian a summer signing. This is a no-brainer if the versatile midfielder would desire such a move.

For quite a few months now, it's been speculated that Fellaini would soon be leaving Goodison Park -- particularly if Everton failed to qualify for the Champions League next season (which they have). The most popular rumored destination for him has been Chelsea*. Perhaps though, with the appointment of Moyes, United can make themselves the more desirable destination for the 25-year-old.

* This is partially why I've been hoping that Chelsea won't finish in the top four. Arsenal and Tottenham would presumably be less formidable competitors in the summer transfer market for most top players. Chelsea's miracle European triumph last season likely allowed them to beat United for the services of Eden Hazard.

Only Manchester City's Yaya Toure rivals Fellaini as the most physically-imposing and versatile midfielder in England. For the first-half of this season, the Belgian international was unplayable on frequent occassions -- United saw this first-hand in the season-opener at Goodison Park.

When Fellaini joined the Toffees in the summer of 2008 as a 20-year-old from Belgian side Standard Liege, he was a relative unknown. He quickly established himself as a destructive force deep in the Everton midfield. The 6'5" destroyer used his surprising mobility and stamina to continually to break up opposition attacks, his technique was more polished than expected as was his poise on the ball, and he exhibited maturity with both his vision and positioning. His ability to win nearly every aerial dual also allowed him to be dominant on set-pieces, both in attack and defensively. The £15 million signing -- an Everton record -- looked to be good business.

The Belgian began to display his versatility in the latter half of his debut season in England. Everton were in a dire situation with their strikers that season -- mostly due to injuries but somewhat due to form as well (the latter being something that was a lingering problem for Moyes during his time at Everton) -- so the Scot decided to use his imposing youngster up front. The Belgian -- who has the build anyway for an old-school No.9 -- generally did well and showed that he had a knack for scoring goals.

Prior to this season though, Fellaini has mostly been deployed as a deep-lying central-midfielder in Everton's 4-4-1-1 shape. During his first four seasons in England, he established himself as one of the top players in the Premier League in this role. Not only was his athleticism and combative nature being appreciated, but increasingly, so was his ability to help keep possession. Fellaini is obviously no Paul Scholes or Xavi but nor is he Andy Carroll playing in the center of the park. He was responsible with the ball (he impressively only conceded possession 33 times in 34 league games during the 2011-12 season), his passing range was decent, and he did well to make himself available for passes.

At the beginning of this season, Moyes decided to change things up and regularly use the Belgian higher up the pitch in support of a lead striker. This typically is the space that a creative No.10 plays occupies. However, Fellaini was more of a target man that used physicality and his tremendous ability to bring the ball down from his chest so that he could bring Everton's wide players or an advancing central-midfielder into attack. So often as well, because he was so dominant in winning the ball in the attacking third and establishing posession there, it was a common site to see multiple defenders challenging him. The knock-on effect from this was that he was sucking defenders out of position and creating space in dangerous areas for his fellow attackers. Sometimes the whole backline of the opposition was unorganized because Fellaini was dragging a central-defender out too high -- remember, he's a target in the space of a typical No.10 rather than that of a No.9 so this deeper positioning is causing unorthodox problems for opponents.

Quite simply, Fellaini is an imposing force in multiple positions because he's a dominant ball-winner anywhere on the pitch. It's important to keep in mind that his technical ability is sound enough for nearly any club in the world and his ability to score from late-arriving runs into the box or from set-pieces is an elite weapon as well. This is the kind of player Manchester United could certainly use and they will soon have a manager who knows how to utilize the talented Belgian.

At Everton, Moyes has shown that he trusts central-midfielders that exhibit tidy passing (long range passing ability out to the flanks is definite plus for him too), positional awareness, and at least one player with some energy and mobility. Michael Carrick has the first two desired traits in spades while Fellaini is also player Moyes obviously trusts in this role. The Belgian, unlike any other player on Everton besides left-back Leighton Baines, is probably the only Toffee talented enough to be on the United squad. As a central-midfielder partnership, Carrick and Fellaini could potentially be the best in England while they would formidable in Europe too. They would seemingly compliment each other well with the former being calm and stationed in front of the back four while the latter could be an energetic and destructive force in a box-to-box role.

Carrick is currently established as perhaps the only reliable player for nearly any occassion in the United midfield. Tom Cleverley is hopefully still developing into a more consistent player while Phil Jones continues to insist that his long-term future is as a central-defender and not as a destructive central-midfielder. Anderson's future is up in the air as well. Fellaini could fill a massive need as central-midfield has been United's proverbial achilles heel for quite some time now.

Fellaini could also be a 'plan B' for Moyes. Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney, if the latter isn't sold in the summer, are likely to be the first-choice options as No.10s. The Belgian, though, could present Moyes with a more physical option in that role and he could be pushed high up the pitch late in games when United are bombarding the box with crosses while scrambling for a needed goal.

And finally, another reason Fellaini makes sense as a summer signing is that Moyes is going to be closely examined with his every move next season since he's succeeding the greatest manager of all-time. The Belgian would be a prudent and financially responsible signing and one that makes sense on many levels. Moyes could hardly dream of a safer player to make as his first signing at Old Trafford.