The 26-year-old midfielder signed for Manchester United last summer for a fee of £27.5 million to join his former manager David Moyes from Everton.
Previously, Fellaini had been a highly influential player for the Toffees under Moyes at Goodison Park, scoring 12 goals in all competitions the season prior to his move in 2012/13.
However, upon his arrival at the then-Premier League champions, Fellaini seemed to lose confidence and form on what was overall a difficult season for the player, the manager and the team.
Moyes was sacked from his post in April and was replaced by Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal - but how can the Dutch master get the best out of his predecessor’s marquee signing last summer?
Whilst at Everton, Fellaini moved from his initial position as a defensive midfielder into an attacking role just behind the striker but for United No.10 Wayne Rooney operates in that position, predominantly behind Robin van Persie.
Fellaini’s 6ft 2in height and physicality that is such a part of his game worked well for the Blues just as it did for Belgium this week – Moyes had utilised him as a target man who could hold up the ball, throw his weight around in the attacking third and bring his teammates into play and that’s much the same role he plays for his country.
However, at Manchester United, with the exceptional technical quality and creativity the Red Devils have in advanced areas, Fellaini’s talents are often outshone by the more skilful and creative players in the team (Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj et al).
Louis van Gaal has two options to pick from when it comes to Marouane Fellaini, should he decide to keep him on at Old Trafford next season.
1): Play him as a defensive midfielder once again behind the front axis of Rooney and Mata – given Michael Carrick is now 32 and Darren Fletcher has struggled with health problems, this could be a way to ensure he gets regular starts and improves his confidence which was dealt such a blow in his debut season.
2): Use him sparingly from the bench in games where free-flowing total football is not penetrating the opposition’s defence – Liverpool have just signed Rickie Lambert for much the same reason I suspect; to have an alternative option to throw on when the team are searching for a goal, to give the opposition’s back line a dilemma that is physical and the team a target-man to aim for in an attacking midfield position.
A mixture of both of those options would get the best out of Fellaini next term – the player needs to know that he is important and integral to the team but he needs to understand what his role precisely is.
If he is deployed in a holding midfield role he needs to be instructed to stay and protect the backline accordingly and if, for instance, he is moved or brought on to help in attack as a target-man, the team need to be instructed to use his height and aerial dominance to their advantage and with the passers they’ve got in the team, they can pick him out where he is most dangerous.
Marouane Fellaini is a very talented player with a unique set of qualities that no other player at the club possesses and whilst it cannot be denied he had a dismal season, so did the whole team and there needs to be a sense of the slate being wiped clean, reset, and give the player a chance to prove his worth to the club.
If Louis van Gaal can boost the player’s confidence and use him in a role he is dangerous, even if sparingly, United will add another string to their bow and be even more dangerous and unpredictable next term.