Manchester United have apparently put Marouane Fellaini up for sale for around £15 million. According to an ESPN UK report, United are prepared to take a substantial loss on the Belgian, who was signed from Everton last summer for £27.5 million.
In spite of United's paucity of midfield options, the sale of Fellaini is one that makes a good deal of sense. There have been very few games in his time at the club where he has looked like the answer to United's midfield woes.
Ahead of his arrival, Fellaini had a fairly good reputation among the Old Trafford faithful. He had repeatedly been instrumental in David Moyes' Everton causing Sir Alex Ferguson's United serious trouble. Fellaini was such a headache for United that Ferguson deployed Phil Jones to man-mark him in their February 2013 clash.
Fellaini's time at United has not lived up to that expectation. The ferocious battering ram of a shadow striker that turned out for Everton has morphed into a lacklustre central midfielder who has added little in the way of steel to United's fragile core.
There are some mitigating factors in Fellaini's misery that are worthy of mentioning in the interests of balance. Firstly, he battled injury for a good part of the season. Whether through injury or not being selected, he only started 12 Premier League games, appearing as a substitute in a further four.
There was also a problem of being made something of a scapegoat. He was associated from the start with David Moyes and the "Evertonisation" of Manchester United (to borrow a phrase from a 2013 Guardian report). Thirdly, his arrival became a watchword for perceived transfer incompetence, the details of which are broken down here by Bleacher Report's Ben Blackmore.
He has had some good games. He was impressive against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns and West Ham at Upton Park. However, that it is those two games which spring to mind, as opposed to say Chelsea and Liverpool, or Manchester City and Bayern Munich, suggests that Fellaini's natural level is not a good match for United.
His end-of-season tally for United stands at no goals and one assist. He made an average of just 0.3 key passes per game. This compares unfavourably to City's expensively acquired summer midfield signing, Fernandinho, who managed five goals, three assists and an average of 1.2 key passes per game.
Defensively, their league statistics appear more similar, with Fellaini making 2.8 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per game and Fernandinho managing 2.9 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game. However, tellingly, in the Champions League, Fernandinho's 3.9 tackles per game compares extremely favourably with Fellaini's 1.2.
While it is a small sample size, and there are mitigating factors, the aforementioned data still bears out the notion that Fellaini's performances in the big games were not impressive.
There is an argument to keep Fellaini for another season. Can United really afford to lose another body in midfield, where the shortage is in both quality and quantity? After all, he may be able to do a job against weaker teams...
The answer is almost certainly yes, assuming there is some plan underway to bring in new midfielders. Removing mediocrity from United's squad will allow Louis van Gaal to embed the culture of quality and success.
The big Fella is up for sale, £15m ONO - the Demoyesation of the club is almost complete.— Fïñø (@Fino76) June 9, 2014
With United fans describing Fellaini's departure as the final act of "Demoyesification," it is hard to imagine him being missed. Sadly, this extraordinary gif of his run out of play against Bayern Munich may end up being the defining moment of his United career.
While I am a sucker for an underdog story and would love it if Fellaini stayed at United and proved his doubters wrong, there seems little evidence to suggest that will happen.
If Louis van Gaal does indeed see Fellaini as surplus to requirements, it is hard to argue against his reasoning.
All stats per WhoScored.com.
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