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Red Devils Advocate: The virtues of Marouane Fellaini

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Red Devils Advocate is our weekly column designed to spark debate by providing a viewpoint that is in contrast to the common feeling among United fans. This week: why Maroune Fellaini should stay next season.

Everton v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Semi Final Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

There are few players in the current Manchester United squad who are derided quite so much as Marouane Fellaini.

And it’s easy to see why; the Belgian midfielder is a frustrating figure, what with his often clumsy first-touch and propensity to find an opponent’s jaw with his elbow.

But deeper than merely what we see play out on the pitch, the resentment of Fellaini is borne by his inextricable link to David Moyes.

Everton v Fulham - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The first and only summer signing of the Moyes era, Fellaini was bought from Everton on transfer deadline day in 2013. Already fans’ noses were put out of joint by the fact that United paid £27.5 million for the afro-haired player, when just a few weeks earlier, a contractual release-clause could’ve saved the club £5 million.

But United dithered and the buy-out clause in Fellaini’s Everton contract expired. So when Moyes finally made his mind up and decided he wanted Fellaini to join him at Old Trafford, Everton held all the cards.

And when Moyes’ tenure was cut shore amid the club’s worst season in almost a quarter of a century, Fellaini remained as a reminder of United’s darkest time in recent memory.

Furthermore, stylistically, Fellaini is a long way from what would usually be considered a "United player", and particularly a United midfielder: a far cry from being a Paul Scholes-esque cultured playmaker, and lacking the driving force of Roy Keane or Bryan Robson.

But last season, under Louis van Gaal, Fellaini showed that, while he may not be able to ping cross-field balls like David Beckham, and he doesn’t have Dimitar Berbatov’s immaculate first-touch, he does bring something different to the table, something no other United player really possesses.

Real Sociedad de Futbol v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Fellaini is, in footballing terms, what you might call a "bit of a bastard". That is to say he is no stranger to the dark arts and the physicality he exherts on opponents often strays beyond the bounds of the association football rule book.

Thugh let’s not forget that José Mourinho, the new United boss, is every bit a bastard himself. You can rest assured that the game’s leading purveyor of shadiness and underhanded tactics will appreciate having a soldier in the mould of the lanky former Standard Liege midfielder.

At times last season, van Gaal’s seemingly unwavering trust is Fellaini was infuriating; many times fans expressed their discontent at seeing the Everton old boy’s name on the team-sheet, while the more talented Ander Herrera or Juan Mata were left on the subsitutes’ bench.

But Fellaini’s role in the one true highlight of last season — or, rather, of the last three seasons — cannot be understated. His crucial goals in the FA cup quarter-final replay away against West Ham United, and in the semi-final against his fomer club, were major contributing factors in putting United in a position to end their three-year trophy drought.

These two games were perhaps Fellaini’s finest in a United shirt and made him a shoo-in for a starting berth in the final — and few Reds disagreed.

An assist for Mata’s goal against Crystal Palace in the final proved that Fellaini was worthy of selection, as his chested knock-down presented the diminutive Spaniard with the perfect opportunity to rifle in a late equaliser, setting up a dramatic extra-time victory.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Fellaini has a long way to go to win over the majority of the Old Trafford crowd, but his FA Cup performances toward to tail end of last season have earned him some good-will.

With his physicality and aerial threat, the 69-cap Belgium international might be just different enough to survive a little longer as a United player.