Marouane Fellaini provided a timely reminder of his Manchester United credentials on Tuesday evening as the imposing midfielder played a prominent role in inspiring Belgium to a comeback victory over Algeria in their World Cup opener.
Belgium had fallen behind to an Algeria penalty after only 25 minutes, which Sofiane Feghouli converted, but were able to stage a late fight back in the second period. Fellaini, on as a substitute for Mousa Dembele just after the hour mark, scored a towering header to restore parity before Dries Mertens netted the winner with only 10 minutes remaining.
Fellaini’s place on the bench owed much to his low confidence and lack of form from a difficult season with Manchester United, but his game changing intervention against Algeria will be just the spark of inspiration required to revive his career for club and country.
A performance to remember
The World Cup is not a bad stage for Fellaini to produce a performance or two of note, and his new manager Louis van Gaal will have been a keen observer as the 26-year-old registered a display reminiscent of his best days at Everton.
Although only 30 minutes in duration, it was perhaps Fellaini’s most effective game since he smashed Manchester United into submission during his and David Moyes’ final campaign at Goodison Park. It was just a glimpse against Algeria, of course, but one that suggested he has not been used correctly at Manchester United.
Back where he belongs
Fellaini excelled for Belgium as he was afforded the freedom to surge into opposition territory, providing a direct threat in the penalty area when his team was in possession. It is in this role where we have seen Fellaini perform at his best most regularly, as that display in the Everton win over Manchester United highlighted.
Not only was Fellaini able to cause a nuisance in the Algeria box, but he also had the ambition to drive forward with the ball, with one notable dash up the right flank resulting in another Belgium chance. At Manchester United, his key objective was to recycle possession, becoming nothing other than a glorified midfield dustman. To exact the best from him, this must change.
One brief performance does not mean that Fellaini is the man to revive Manchester United’s fortunes on his own, but these green shoots serve as a reminder that he should not be written off. Are you watching, Van Gaal?
Delighted with win
Fellaini, meanwhile, had this to say on his official Facebook page following Belgium's triumph...
"Fantastic win! Very happy to score my first World Cup goal and to get the win for Belgium! #WorldCup"