Marouane Fellaini treated Manchester United supporters to an imperious display during their side’s 3-1 win over Middlesbrough in the Premier League.
The Belgian, thrown in alongside Michael Carrick as a replacement for the injured Paul Pogba, crowned a performance characterised by raw muscle and grit in the middle with a superb header to hand Jose Mourinho’s men the lead after 30 minutes.
A glance at the Belgian’s stats from the game sheds light on the commanding nature of his performance at the Riverside.
Fellaini's game by numbers vs. Middlesbrough:
60% aerial duels won
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 19, 2017
Most of the vitriol spewed in Fellaini’s direction stems from the fact that, on the whole, his exact function within the side can often be unclear. A battering ram? A No.10? A defensively oriented midfielder?
Sometimes it can feel like the 29-year-old tries to do all of the above without actually mastering any of them, but the dynamic gainst Middlesbrough was entirely different. Fellaini’s role was clear: to act as a physical presence alongside Carrick, giving the Englishman space by harassing anybody threatening to head in his direction, and in turn complimenting the craft and raw energy of Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard with a pinch of muscle going forward.
This is indeed how Fellaini operated best during his time at Everton and supporters will be glad to see Mourinho sensibly choosing to deploy him to similar effect at Man United.