Last year it seemed Marouane Fellaini could do no right at Manchester United but now the Belgian is making a nuisance of himself in a good way – much to manager Louis van Gaal’s delight.
Fellaini’s introduction after 72 minutes – with United trailing 1-0 to West Ham on Sunday – proved too much for the London club’s defence as the midfielder played a key part in the build up to Daley Blind’s injury-time equaliser.
Although United slipped to fourth in the table behind Southampton, they stayed five points off second-placed Manchester City as the battle for Champions League spots heats up.
“I think with Fellaini, you have to change your style of play and that we have done,” said Van Gaal.
“Because of Fellaini, we have created a lot of chances because I think we had the three open chances before the goal – it changed the game.
“Normally, you can win this game in spite of the bad first half. But I am pleased with the draw.”
Van Gaal urged his squad to show the same never-say-die spirit they showed in the second half in the upcoming fixtures – starting with Burnley on Wednesday.
“We played very badly in the first half but we showed a lot of spirit in the second, especially after their goal,” he said.
“We gave that goal away I think. Then we played football but you have to do it from the first minute.
“I have to say what a spirit my team showed after falling 1-0 behind. I have thanked my players for that.”
After a tepid first half, it was the hosts who took the lead on Sunday afternoon when Cheikhou Kouyate volleyed home just after the interval.
United pressed hard for a leveller, but when Radamel Falcao missed a golden chance with 15 minutes remaining, it looked unlikely that an equaliser would arrive.
However, Dutch midfielder Blind, who has enjoyed a good run of form since returning from a knee injury, levelled after 92 minutes with a strike from the edge of the area and defender Phil Jones called on his United teammates to react well when they host relegation-threatened Burnley.
“We have got another big game on Wednesday night now and we need to win that one as well,” he told MUTV.
“In the end, we are disappointed in the dressing room that we didn’t take all three points, but West Ham pressed us well and a draw was a fair result.
“We needed to win and it was a big game for us. We have not lost, which is a plus, but we could have gained some ground.
“We created two or three great opportunities in the second half that unfortunately didn’t go in, but thankfully Daley stuck that one in at the end and got us a draw.”
Main image courtesy of MUTV via YouTube, with thanks.