Everton Club Focus – Fellaini the standout as Toffees snatch draw against Man Utd

While there were a number of impressive performances during Everton’s superb 4-4 draw with Manchester United on Sunday, the standout individual was surely midfielder Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian not only scored one and created another, but entered an all-round display of the highest calibre.

It was the kind of effort from Fellaini that David Moyes foresaw when he paid £15m for Fellaini in 2008, a lavish sum for a club of distressed finances. When Fellaini arrived on Merseyside as a 20-year-old he attracted more attention for his hair than his football, although a spate of goals did eventually put the emphasis on playing matters. But the goals themselves distracted from the reality of Fellaini’s early months at Goodison Park, when the record fee handed over to Standard Liege seemed a long way from justified. One Everton fan site, Toffee Web, said of Fellaini’s early Everton career: “[Fellaini] was slow to adapt to the sheer pace and high tempo of the Premier League [and]…clumsy in the tackle.” 13 yellow cards in his debut season in England attest to that much.

Indeed, Fellaini’s greatest impact in his first Everton season was not as a defensive midfielder but as an attacking midfield battering ram, lacking the refinement on show this weekend at Old Trafford. To that end Fellaini was often used as an auxiliary striker after a series of injuries left Moyes short in that area, a positional switch that cannot have helped Fellaini adjust to Premier League life. Injuries played a part in Fellaini’s early struggles, too, but once accustomed to the Premier League, restored to his most natural position and free of the niggles Fellaini eventually proved well worth his substantial transfer fee, offering not only the physical presence to shield the back four but a touch of class to contribute to Everton’s attacking moves. The highlight of this early period may well have been a pirouette past the onrushing Craig Bellamy, then of Manchester City, that will live long in the memory of anyone fortunate enough to witness it.

Almost from that moment, in January 2010, Fellaini has been integral to Everton. The years have brought increased maturity onto the field as the now-24-year-old’s card count has dropped year on year, from the peak of 13 to seven in 2009-10, five in 2010-11 and, although Fellaini has received 10 bookings this season, he has played 11 more games than in the last campaign. But the midfielder’s positioning and propensity to smoothly break up the opposition’s play and begin Everton’s own attack has not diminished, and the attacking outlet against United brought some of those qualities – a delightful first touch, calm use of the ball and lung-bursting stamina to name just three. Scoring Everton’s third goal was fair reward for a sterling effort.

Fellaini was just one of Everton’s impressive performers at Old Trafford, with Steven Pienaar arguably the other individual to contribute on a greater level than his teammates. But to a man Everton deserved the point, inspired by Fellaini’s excellence.

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