It's an exciting time for Manchester United fans at the moment. They have a new manager in Louis van Gaal, who has new ideas, is saying brash and interesting things and is taking no nonsense from anyone. If nothing else, it will make a nice change from David Moyes looking like he belonged anywhere other than Manchester United.
New signings have been made, with Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera arriving in quick time, while there is the promise of more to come, with the latest reports, per Chilean newspaper La Tercera (via Simon Rice of The Independent), suggesting that a deal for Arturo Vidal could be close.
One man might not be quite as excited about the changes at Old Trafford as everyone else, though, and that's Marouane Fellaini, whose poor performances last season became a symbol of everything that was wrong about United under Moyes.
His expensive, delayed recruitment was supposed to be the cure to all of their midfield woes, but like his manager, he didn't fit in. His confidence was low in his first season at the club and his performances were poor.
The move was recalled again this week, when Everton, not usually a club with the means or inclination to spend big, paid Chelsea almost exactly the sum they received for Fellaini for Romelu Lukaku, which broke their transfer record. The record that fee broke was, of course, Fellaini's.
So, what now for the big Belgian? There is obviously talk of a move away from Old Trafford, and there does appear to be concrete interest in his services from some places.
The most notable is Serie A's Napoli, where flamboyant president Aurelio De Laurentiis expressed his interest in a way that only he could. He's quoted by Italian radio station Kiss Kiss (via The Guardian) as saying in reference to a partnership between Fellaini and Gokhan Inler:
Fellaini is one of the names on the table, but not the only one.
They would make a nice pair, Fellaini has long hair and the Swiss is shaven. Together they have a hairstyle that looks like a lion’s mane and three years ago I presented Inler with the mask of a lion!
De Laurentiis does obviously have a liking for outrageous statements, but he has shown in the past couple of years that he is not afraid to spend money when he has it, recruiting the likes of Gonzalo Higuain after selling Edinson Cavani.
So leaving United is the most likely option for Fellaini but could there still be a future at United for him? One of the benefits of a new manager is that previously underperforming players are given a clean slate, a fresh chance to impress, so Fellaini still has an opportunity to make an impression.
Fellaini can use Ashley Young as an example. After last season (and probably before that) most United fans would probably have driven Young to wherever he wanted to go, as long as it wasn't Old Trafford, his often-limp performances not exactly proving popular among the United faithful.
However, in pre-season Young has been picked by Van Gaal and been given a chance to impress. Whether he takes that chance is immaterial—the point is that the chance is there.
In addition, Van Gaal has indicated that he could deploy a different formation this season, picking a version of a 3-5-2/3-4-3 system in most of their warm-up matches so far. In that formation a strong presence is required in midfield, which Fellaini can undoubtedly provide.
While Fellaini was, to use quite an understatement, disappointing last term, he is not as bad a player as that performance suggested. While the most likely outcome is a departure from the club, under a new manager and a new system, who knows?
Perhaps Fellaini could have a future at United.
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