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Fellaini signing a new deal will anger fans for a few different reasons. Many will think that the club should be aiming higher with their targets, and a contract renewal takes up a place in the squad that could be filled with someone of higher quality. Some might not like how the contract renewal has played out in the press. Others just generally dislike the player and his style.
This article isn’t concerned with those angles at all. We’re simply going to highlight how Fellaini has played over the past year, and what he’s added to the team.
Firstly, you’ve got to ask – what is his role in the team? What is his objective? It’s clear that he isn’t a starter. His main role is one of being bought on in the final minutes. This could be to shore up games with his strength and defensive abilities, or to add an extra aerial threat up front to potentially nick a goal. With this in mind, and having looked at the data, he actually does his role effectively.
Last season, Fellaini played a total of 878 minutes. In terms of United’s other central midfielders, this ranked fifth in terms of total minutes. Matic (4,156), Pogba (2,879), Herrera (2,209), McTominay (1,307); and ahead of Michael Carrick (379).
The vast majority of his appearances were in the last 20 minutes of games. His average playing time per match was around 20 minutes long. In other words, right at the end of matches. United only actually conceded once he was brought onto the pitch (in league matches – only twice in all competitions).
One of the main sources of criticism of Fellaini is that he doesn’t offer anything in terms of playing ability in attack. What can’t argue though is his main attacking threats come in the box. He is tall , strong and a very good headerer of the ball. There’s also an argument to be made that having his presence in the box means that he draws attention away from other players. He forces defenders to play deeper, which puts the other team under pressure.
Fred has obviously arrived from Shaktar for £52 million which puts his place under more threat. Incidentally though, Fred is only 5 foot 4, so maybe the Fellaini option will be used more.
From the bench at least, it’s clear that Fellaini does actually add something to the team. Many United fans wouldn’t like to admit it, but the stats don’t lie.
He has a unique style and he can change games with that style. It might not be the most aesthetically pleasing style, but nonetheless its does impact games, which ultimately is what matters.
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