Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal had the chance to praise for Marouane Fellaini for a game-changing contribution in last night's 3-1 FA Cup victory over Preston North End, but even managed to turn what was supposed to a compliment for the big Belgian into something of a thinly-veiled dig.
Fellaini was moved up front by Van Gaal with things getting pretty desperate against the League One side, using his considerable physical attributes to score the goal that put United ahead in the tie for the first time in the 72nd minute.
United were flat as a pancake for long spells at Deepdale but Fellaini's impact when moved into an advanced central position was notable, with Van Gaal revealing in his post-match interview quoted by the Mirror that it's actually Fellaini's favourite role, even if he hasn't played there all season long.
Fellaini continues to divide opinion
When asked about Fellaini's impact Van Gaal clearly wanted to point out that the former Everton star has an imposing stature than any other player in his squad, but that sentiment got horribly lost in translation.
Van Gaal said: "Marouane Fellaini has a body." Good start. "He also scores goals. I played him in the position that he wants for the first time but I do not always have a position for him."
Van Gaal should instead point out that at crucial points of his first season Fellaini has made his presence felt, even if he's still consistently criticised by United fans for a cumbersome style that at times is not conducive to producing free-flowing football in the final third.
The 27-year-old scored a superb equaliser at West Brom earlier this season, plus the opening goal against Stoke City and a crucial breakthrough in a tricky trip to Loftus Road.
Fellaini also made the difference against West Ham earlier this month, with United playing to his strengths and getting a tangible end result.
Why not play to his strengths?
United supporters must ultimately accept that Van Gaal is a pragmatist under pressure to deliver Champions League qualification, by any means necessary. If that means feeding Fellaini and working off the knock-downs to find space in the penalty area then so be it.
Red Devils fans have grown accustomed to attacking football with wing wizards leading the charge, but there's no one right way to play the game.
Fellaini has a characteristics that no other player at Van Gaal's disposal, attributes a manager of his quality is ultimately going to use to his advantage.
Van Gaal isn't shy about playing to Fellaini's strengths, so there's absolutely no reason why United fans should be embarrassed by that strategy under the right conditions.
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