It's easy to understand why Marouane Fellaini became a Manchester United scapegoat last season. After all, the Belgian international proved to be David Moyes' only signing in the summer of 2013, and things didn't exactly take off for either of them at the club last term.
Moyes, of course, was shown the Old Trafford exit door, whilst Fellaini had a debut campaign to forget at the Theatre of Dreams. But, as Moyes struggled, did the former Everton man really stand a chance of success?
In truth, Moyes must take part of the blame for the way Fellaini was (and still is by many) portrayed at the club. The former Manchester United manager, who has just taken over at La Liga outfit Real Sociedad, signed Fellaini with the intention of turning him into a holding-midfielder.
Let's get straight to the point: Fellaini is not a holding-midfielder, but he can do a job there. And he needs to be given the license to hurt teams: the license to get forward and score goals.
Last season, though, Fellaini wasn't given the opportunity to show what he can do as he was held back by the man that had seemingly put so much faith in him. You can, however, understand why Moyes didn't want to use the Belgian midfielder in the final third of the pitch.
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Moyes didn't want his side to start playing the long ball: it would have just handed his critics another opportunity to slate him. But, then again, it may well have saved him; Fellaini could have rescued points for United late on in games last season...
With Moyes out of the picture, then, Fellaini is still the subject of criticism at Old Trafford. In pre-season, the midfielder was sarcastically cheered every-time he touched the ball.
It must be noted, though, that there was a pantomime feel to the crowd as Manchester United beat Valencia, but the reaction must have hurt the midfielder. It must also be noted that Fellaini proved to be the match-winner on that day, too...
A new start
And, slowly but surely, as this season has progressed, Fellaini has started to change a few opinions. Against West Brom last month, the Manchester United fans were cheering Fellaini for different reasons altogether.
His first competitive goal for the club - a timely one - finally proved just what he is capable of. The strike against the Baggies was full of class; it was absolutely outstanding. A great first touch was followed with a thunderbolt of a finish; it's not surprising that the strike was named the club's goal of the month for October.
It's down to you, Van Gaal
Fellaini, then, is an option, but Van Gaal must use him at the right times. Don't get me wrong, though, the Belgian shouldn't be a constant starter for Manchester United, but there will be a time and a place for his presence, and he makes a solid squad player.
The Belgian proved a success against Premier League table-toppers Chelsea last month as United needed to dig in and win headers against Jose Mourinho's side. Ultimately, the midfielder played a huge role in the Red Devils' equalising goal.
But, there's also times when Fellaini should be used sparingly. Did Van Gaal really need to start him against Crystal Palace this past weekend? Manchester United should be dominating the so called smaller teams on home soil, so Van Gaal should be starting his more naturally technically gifted stars.
Fellaini will probably never go down as a legend at Old Trafford, but he can be a key figure for the club under the Louis van Gaal regime. The Manchester United boss' job is to just use him correctly.
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