The 28-year-old’s inclusion in the starting XI – following a substandard display in the Community Shield against Leicester City – ahead of Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin bemused and irked supporters.
However, Fellaini duly silenced his critics with a sensational performance in midfield, misplacing just one of his 76 passes.
Speaking after the game, Mourinho acknowledged the general antipathy towards Fellaini, but insisted the Belgian’s performance deserves high praise.
“With Fellaini I always have the feeling that he was not loved by the general Red people,” Mourinho said.
“But, if he plays like he’s playing now, they have to love him because he’s being so important for us.”
Fellaini’s performance against Eddie Howe’s side was arguably his best in a Man United shirt: a rampaging, stellar and composed force all afternoon, the Belgian – alongside the equally impressive Ander Herrera – took the game away from the home side, refusing to give them a chance to overrun United’s midfield – a stark and welcome contrast to last December’s visit to the Vitality Stadium.
And while the imminent inclusion of Paul Pogba threatens to thwart the 28-year-old’s spell in the starting XI, Fellaini – with his idiosyncratic style that mixes aggression and bold running – will offer an important alternative dynamic from the bench.