English Premiership

Fellaini set for advanced role

2015-08-26 09:46
Marouane Fellaini (AFP)

Bruges - Marouane Fellaini can be the solution to Manchester United's goal-scoring problems, manager Louis van Gaal suggested on Tuesday, revealing that he will be used predominantly in attacking positions this season.

The gangly Belgian international's valuable injury-time header gave United a 3-1 win against his countrymen Club Brugge in last week's Champions League play-off round first leg and the 27-year-old is pushing for a starting berth in Wednesday's return match in Bruges.

That result aside, United have struggled for goals this season, scoring only two in their three Premier League matches to date, and Van Gaal believes that Fellaini can help address the matter.

"He can play in a nine position and a 10, but he can also play six and eight," Van Gaal told his pre-match press conference at the Jan Breydel Stadium.

"But this year he shall play more at 10 and nine than six and eight because there we have other players."

United had a number of options up front last season, but the departures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao have left Wayne Rooney to plough a lone furrow in attack, while the midfield is even more well furnished following the arrivals of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Fellaini struggled as a central midfielder in his debut campaign under David Moyes - his former manager at Everton - in 2013-14, but scored some vital goals last season after being moved further forward by Van Gaal.

"In the past I played number 10 and number nine sometimes, when I have to help the team, so I can play there and I can help my team-mates and my team," Fellaini said.

"For me it's not important where I play. The most important (thing) is to win the game. Of course it's different to play midfield and striker or number 10, but I enjoy all the positions I can play."

He added: "Everyone knows my first season was difficult, but now it's the past, so now I look forward. Last year I did quite well and I want to continue like that.

"I know my team-mates, the manager and the philosophy of the manager, so I'm just looking to do well and score some goals."

Fellaini's first-leg goal, set up by new signing Memphis Depay, who had earlier scored a brace, makes United strong favourites to reach the group stage after a first season out of the tournament in 19 years.

It is 10 years since Club Brugge played in the group phase and 20 since Van Gaal led a young Ajax team to Champions League glory against AC Milan, illustrating the difficulties that teams from Belgium and the Netherlands face when trying to compete with the giants of England, Spain and Germany.

But Van Gaal, who played in Belgium with Royal Antwerp, believes the blend of youth and experience he concocted at Ajax, and is trying to replicate at Old Trafford, can help Europe's lesser lights glow again.

"I think these teams still have something to say in Europe," he said.

"I'm not optimistic, because the gap is big, but you have to believe in it. That's why I believe in youth education.

"When you see how many young players Manchester United have and (who) play - we are starting with (Luke) Shaw, then Depay, (Adnan) Januzaj, then (Jesse) Lingard, (Paddy) McNair, they are all playing in this squad.

"Sometimes they shall play more matches. It depends also what happens in the transfer period. But we are starting to make a mixture.

"I think it's always important to make a mix of youth players and older players. And you can do that in the Netherlands and also in Brugge."

Asked if United could win the Champions League with an Ajax-style blend of ages, he replied: "Yes, I believe in that. I believe more in a mix than players only from 27 to 34."

 

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