Marouane Fellaini came back into the Manchester United starting XI for the derby day defeat to Manchester City following Paul Pogba’s injury.
He did not manage to replicate the Frenchman’s attacking prowess in a game which saw Man United fail to register a single shot on target from open play.
Where he did impress, however, was at the other end: there was a grittiness to United in defeat on Sunday, and Fellaini was a leading exponent of that attitude throughout the game – as the statistics show.
Marouane Fellaini's game by numbers vs. Man City:
most clearances (7)
most aerials won (5)
most tackles won (4)
Solid defensive output. 🇧🇪🙌 pic.twitter.com/GVtrHaBOWM
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 11, 2018
He was relentlessly physical. He covered all the ground that he could. He was, as always, impressive defending set-pieces. He was disciplined. His handling of the ball was decent on the whole, and certainly better than his midfield partners.
Which leads me nicely to an important question: if Fellaini is capable of displaying all of above attributes against high quality opposition, where is the need for Nemanja Matic?
The Serbian’s name has been on the lips of supporters for some time. Mourinho uses him for defensive cover in midfield and relies on him to recycle possession sensibly. At the moment, though, he is doing neither, and doing it badly.
His performance on Sunday, during which he lost his man for City’s third and lacked any kind of accuracy passing forward, only served to underline that notion.
Like Romelu Lukaku, he could do with a break. In the meantime, Fellaini looks more than capable of offering something better.