Danny Higginbotham believes there is one player who has been vital in United’s revival.
“The biggest change in the season is, and I never thought I say this, Marouane Fellaini,” he said. “They had Angel Di Maria on the right, and Ashley Young on the left, coming inside, while Radamel Falcao and Wayne Rooney dropped deep.
“Now they’ve got Fellaini who can stretch the game. It’s no surprise over the last few weeks two of their best players have been Ander Herrera and Juan Mata. They are getting that extra vital couple of seconds on the ball to dictate the game.”
Fellaini was derided in the early parts of this season, having failed to reach the heights of his career with Everton. He was a clear David Moyes signing, and it appeared as if his career at Old Trafford was over as soon as Louis van Gaal took charge.
Admittedly, his form at the beginning of the campaign backed up such a view, with his lack of technical abilities not playing into van Gaal’s hands.
However, he was moved further forward, into something of a target-man playmaker, and that switch has been the catalyst for United’s return to form - and to the top four.
He is sitting slightly off the strikers and is used to throw his body around and lay the ball off to the more technical players around him. This role has allowed Juan Mata and Ander Herrera to excel in the midfield, as their lack of physicality has been made up for with Fellaini’s presence.
The Belgian international may still be very one-dimensional and hardly a top level player, but van Gaal has found the perfect use for his skill-set - and United are massively benefiting.