Opinion Piece: Mops and Flops


Check out our opinion piece on Marouane Fellaini's Manchester United career.

There are certain footballers whose hairstyles serve to amplify their iconic status, etching them more concretely into sporting lore. Ruud Gullit’s dreadlocks seemed an extension - or extensions - of the laconic majesty that he displayed in midfield. Johan Cruyff’s Beatle-esque mop encased him firmly within the echelons of hipster cool. And David Beckham’s myriad array of hairstyle “do’s and don’ts” perfectly embodied the travails of being football’s greatest celebrity. Then there are those players - El Hadji Diouf for instance - whose hair histrionics represented the most intriguing thing about them. Belgian international and Manchester United man, Marouane Fellaini, falls distinctly into the latter category.

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It has become clear - especially in the aftermath of that first half display against St Etienne last week - that Fellaini has become surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. The first half ghosted past the Belgian midfielder in embarrassing fashion. Mourinho yanked him at halftime, and the entire dynamic of the match changed. In terms of the itinerary of your modern day midfielder, Fellaini possesses neither the athleticism to play destroyer, nor the creativity to be a visionary presence. So he just sometimes finds himself caught in the Bermuda Triangle in between those two polarities - giving away desperate free-kicks as he arrives at every crime scene just seconds too late.

It’s ironic that the Belgian doesn’t seem to have the same issues on international duty. He has always played his best football on international duty, perhaps serving as an ideal counterpoint to the fluid mobility of the other players: Hazard, Mertens, Lukaku, etc.

Additionally, international tournaments - giving their condensed nature- often require a no-nonsense figure that can serve as plan C. That’s the one instance where Mourinho could ostensibly use the Belgian, when they are 1-0 down to Stoke in the 85th minute at the Britannia. But ultimately, that shouldn’t be the type of player that United aspire to in quest of recapturing the frisson of Ferguson. Contingency plans are just not the Old Trafford way.

In that regard, it’s impossible to lay the blame of Fellaini’s dismal United venture squarely at his feet. David Moyes - the highly touted ‘Chosen One’- has got to shoulder a fair amount of the blame. Personally, I felt that the signing of Fellaini was the first indication that the truculent Scot was in over his head. It was always going to be a poisoned chalice, but Moyes accelerated the toxicity of the dose. Fellaini fitted in perfectly inside the blueprint Moyes implemented at Everton, playing off Tim Cahill in a route-one style that served to negate his shortcomings.
So Moyes decided to bring that type of player to a club that demanded something more.  It was never going to work. The most memorable thing about his tenure at the club thus far his liberal use of elbows, a unique talent that has only served to further enhance his status as something of a thug. The loyalty that Moyes shows in former players is actually a curse that haunts him still. You are at a club like Sunderland, desperately looking for something to reinvigorate the squad towards survival. So you go out and get Steven Pienaar, Joleon Lescott and Darren Gibson. Something to get the fans excited. So at least Fellaini isn’t just an isolated case of managerial miscalculation.

I feel sorry for all those United fans who found it hilarious to purchase one of those Fellaini headpieces - ala Hashim Amla’s beard piece. They probably thought they were investing in a little piece of memorabilia that would commemorate the birth of a cult hero. In the end, they have got a depressing reminder of the birthing pains of the post-Ferguson era, an era which Jose Mourinho looks keen to resurrect.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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