David Moyes has allayed fan fears that Marouane Fellaini has been recruited for the aerial threat he poses up front, which could reduce Wayne Rooney to a bench role for much of the season, by reinforcing the former Everton player's midfield utility.
In season's past, Fellaini has transformed from a brutish imposer in the middle of the park, to a unique withdrawn centre forward-type. He is far from a playmaker but not a focal point of an attack. What he does offer as an advanced midfielder or withdrawn forward is aerial-ability, precise timing of runs, spatial awareness and a good finishing ability that continues to improve.
At United, if a forward was elected by Moyes to play just behind Robin van Persie, traditionally it would be a role suited for either Danny Welbeck or Rooney, a position the two Englishmen will still vie for by themselves as Moyes regards Fellaini's versatility in the central areas of the pitch — defensive midfield and box-to-boxing — to be more of an asset.
'He’s a very good footballer and a good technician,' said Moyes to the club's official website of the player signed for a £27.5m fee a matter of seconds prior to Monday evening's summer market transfer deadline.
'He has the ability to score goals and play in several different positions in the midfield. I think that’s an area where everybody felt we could do with strengthening. He’ll give us different options in different games in terms of where we can use him. For me, he’s been one of the best midfielders in the Premier League over the last few seasons.'
Before Fellaini's goal-supply at Everton, was the reliable reign of attacker Tim Cahill, whose strength in the air belied his height. The Australian linked up particularly well with Leighton Baines but during the tail-end of his tenure, began to find goals harder to come by.
Fellaini eventually filled the goal-scoring void and returned 12 goals from 36 appearances to become the top scorer at Goodison Park last season: 'He helped me over the years in different ways,' said Moyes, crediting the player's usefulness and the ease in which he adapts.
'He can play higher up, if we need it, behind the striker or as a defensive or holding midfielder. In any position in the middle of the field he’s comfortable. Because of that I think it’s definitely a position where people have said we’ve been short of numbers. I felt we needed to strengthen there and I’m glad we got him.'
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