When Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed his intention to step down from his role with Manchester United at the end of the season, it was understandable to see the outpour of emotion from Old Trafford and the entire football fraternity.
The game’s most exemplary manager was calling time on his outstanding career. Twenty-six years, a gauntlet of trophies and a sky-rocketing of Manchester United’s brand are just some of his achievements. It was time, end of an era.
“Stand by your new manager,” Ferguson told the home fans during his farewell speech following the 2-1 win over Swansea City earlier this month - and if United fans are to witness unprecedented levels of success once again, it’s crucial that Moyes is given the necessary time to ensure he can showcase his managerial talents to the supporters.
Understandably, a number of current Everton stars have been linked with a big-money switch to United, much like Wayne Rooney’s transfer in 2004. Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini have been mooted with a possible move over the summer.
The latter, in particular, is one that supporters have been hopeful of acquiring following an impressive campaign with the Toffees. The ‘Divine Afro’ has attained an average rating of 7.6 in the league this season, the fifth highest.
David Moyes changed his position into a more advanced role that has contributed 11 league goals, the club’s highest scorer in the league. Of those 11 strikes, five have been headers, which is the second highest in the Premier League, bettered only Swansea’s Michu who has six.
While his attacking importance is evidently highlighted further with his five assists, only South African Steven Pienaar laying on more goals, it’s the midfield capabilities that United fans would be eager to see replicated.
Since the days of Roy Keane, fans of the Premier League champions have seen a number of possible replacements come and go - most notably Kleberson and Eric Djemba Djemba, who still could not come close to filling the Irishman’s void.
Darren Fletcher was a near-replacement for Keane with his sheer tenacity, work-rate and eye for goal. He also would never shy away from a tackle and his seemingly never-ending bout with sickness is a big blow to United. The fact that Fergie opted to play Phil Jones in central midfield in big matches highlighted United’s vulnerability without the Scot.
Michael Carrick has been outstanding for large parts of the season but has been found wanting against teams with imposing midfielders (Real Madrid, West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester City game come to mind). Fellaini would bring more steel into that department with his abrasiveness, physicality and presence.
He has committed more fouls than anyone in the league this season with the exception of Norwich’s Grant Holt. In addition, he has also made 79 tackles which is very impressive considering most of his appearances have been as an attacking midfielder.
More importantly, though, it’s the defensive capabilities that fans would be keen acquiring. He has an almost inborn gene for tracking back even when deployed further forward. Fellaini is 6ft 4in inches tall, with good physical strength and ability in the air means the Everton’s primary attacking option this term could become a plan B for United, should they move for him.
Also, his physical presence, good footballing brain and eye for a pass will also be invaluable for United. Add to that the fact that he is only 25 and already has considerable experience in the Premier League and you can see why United would be wise to move for him. He would be a great partner for Carrick, a replacement when the Englishman is need of a rest and a valuable asset to have against more physical teams like Stoke, West Ham and Manchester City where United’s soft central core is usually exposed.
Nonetheless, not only do his defensive stats stand up against the United midfield, his aerial ability would bring another dimension to the attack.
He could be pushed further forward should Moyes require it and, with the option to use him as another forward, the Scot could be killing two birds with one stone if he were to bring Fellaini with him to United.
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