Manchester United didn’t exactly give Arsene Wenger an Old Trafford send off to remember. The game felt like an exhibition at times, and a much younger and inexperienced Arsenal side were able to equalize through former Red Henrikh Mkhitaryan. United grabbed the win in stoppage time through an unlikely hero, Marouane Fellaini. Fellaini’s 4th league goal of the season was the most stereotypical Fellaini goal. He connected on the cross with the back of his head and placed it right in the corner of David Ospina’s net.
With his future uncertain Fellaini was able to show he still has a passion for playing for United, but he is too often a defensive liability. The risk is higher than the reward when it comes to putting Fellaini in the team. He has become a symbol of the instability and underachieving United teams of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal. José Mourinho was correct in his analysis of poor transfers made in the years preceding his arrival, and to move forward the club must cut ties with the transfer that began it all. The time is right for Fellaini and the club to part ways.
To Fellaini’s credit, he made the most of a bad situation. His transfer almost seemed doomed from the start. United were linked with the likes of Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas, and even a supposed bid to bring back Cristiano Ronaldo, and instead Moyes was only able to bring in teenage right back Guillermo Varela and Fellaini by the end of the 2013 summer window. A disappointing haul followed by even more disappointing performances saw much of the blame placed on Fellaini.
He surprisingly remained at the club when Van Gaal arrived, and even began to contribute. He scored the second goal in a 4-2 demolition of Manuel Pellegrini’s City, one of Van Gaal’s signature victories, and bagged the last minute winner in United’s Champions League qualification knockout first leg over Club Brugge.
His best years at the club were certainly from 2015-2017, during which he scored vital goals in big games for both Van Gaal and Mourinho. He opened the scoring in the FA Cup semi-final win over former club Everton, and helped set up Juan Mata’s late equalizer in the Final against Crystal Palace. Under Mourinho the following season he scored the winner in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final, and the decisive goal in the second leg of the Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo. All three of these competitions were won by United.
Unfortunately for Fellaini, Mourinho’s current side seem to be gearing up for a title run. They’ve all but secured a second place finish in the Premier League, the club’s highest finish since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season, and will be playing in their fourth cup final in 3 seasons.
This season United have finally begun to lock down their opponents in midfield, and they’ve done so largely without Fellaini’s contributions. Manchester United’s ambitions have always been beyond Fellaini’s skillset, it’s only now that the side is able to live up to expectations. He has done enough to have shaken off the “failure” label that was too quickly assigned to him, but it’s time to move on before his inconsistency really costs United when it matters.