It is the end of an era. After weeks of rumors, Manchester United have officially confirmed that Marouane Fellaini has left the club for Shandong Luneng Taishan FC in China. The Belgian midfielder was the first signing of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, arriving on deadline day in the summer of 2013 to reunite with his former manager David Moyes. He would go on to make 177 appearances over five-and-a-half years, and pick up a few cups along the way.
Fellaini’s awkward fit on the pitch at United — this correspondent once described him as being less useful than a broom cupboard — was mirrored by the strangeness of his initial transfer. Big Felli was reportedly available earlier in the summer of 2013 from Everton for a set buyout clause. After being led a merry dance by Cesc Fabregas and dithering on Thiago Alcantara, Moyes turned to Fellaini in a panic on the last day of the window — for several million more dollars than he would have been available for weeks earlier.
Fellaini, despite never looking like he had any business in a United shirt, outlasted the aborted David Moyes era, the dull-as-dishwater Louis van Gaal years, and soul-crushing joylessness of the José Mourinho reign. All three managers found Fellaini useful, and he only reached the end of his rope under current caretaker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who — not coincidentally — is the first manager since Ferguson to attempt to play actual football.
With all that said, and as many maddening, poor-touch-having, pointless-elbowing moments that Fellaini has delivered over the years, we here at The Busby Babe can’t help but wonder if this sale wouldn’t have been better off taking place in the summer. After all, Fellaini eventually became a serviceable holding midfielder, a position in which United currently have no real senior cover behind the creaking legs of Nemanja Matić.
Or maybe we’ve just become so used to Fellaini that we’re suffering a football version of Stockholm Syndrome. Best of luck to the big lump in China.