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Marouane Fellaini.

Fellaini: 'Playing against England will be intense'

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Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini is currently on Belgium duty in Russia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Just before jetting off to meet up with his international team-mates, our no.27 spoke exclusively to MUTV about his previous World Cup experience, Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ and the crucial group game against England, which is taking place tonight (Thursday) in Kaliningrad at 19:00 BST.

However, unfortunately, his United and Belgian team-mate Romelu Lukaku is set to miss the eagerly awaited match, which will decide who tops Group G, after suffering a knee injury in the Red Devils' 5-2 win over Tunisia - a game in which Marouane made his first appearance of the tournament.

Here's what the midfielder had to say...

How do you reflect on the World Cup qualification campaign?
“It was good. We travelled a lot and played against some good teams. We also had some friendly games. It was a good campaign, we finished first. We have a good team so now we just have to play a few games and be ready for the World Cup.”

Do you have fond memories of the 2014 World Cup?
“Of course. I did play once in Brazil so I know all about the World Cup. It’s a big competition. We can show what we can do. I have played a lot for the national team so I know the team and the players very well. I know it’s work so, for me to start or not, the most important thing is to win the games, to go as far as we can, take it game by game and see what happens.”
Marouane Fellaini says

"We played at the World Cup and the Euros, so now the team is much stronger than it was four years ago."

Will the 2014 edition help to build experience of a major tournament? 
“Yes, for sure. We played at the World Cup and the Euros [in 2016], so now the team is much stronger than four years ago. More experienced players playing in a good team win trophies, so we have more experience. We are a good team and we just need to improve a few things – we have some time to do that, so let’s improve and see what we can do at the World Cup.”

There's a current 'golden generation' of talented players for Belgium – what’s behind that?
“I think players go to foreign countries to play. They go younger, they have the personality to go to the other countries to show themselves and I think when you go there, you learn more and you play with big teams against big players, so you learn more quickly.”

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You have a new manager from Euro 2016. What does Roberto Martinez do differently to Marc Wilmots?
“I think he has a lot of experience and has managed a couple of teams in the Premier League. He is Spanish so he has the mentality to have the ball and that is different to Marc Wilmots. He likes to have the ball and play three at the back, wingers are further forward and so, yes, he’s different and at the moment we are doing well in this system.”

Is your role in the national team different compared to United?
“In the last few games for the national team, I played in defensive midfield. I can play in a few roles and the manager decides, so we will see.”

Marouane Fellaini says

"When Romelu is fit and in a good dynamic, it is difficult to stop him because he scores goals, he’s powerful and he’s dangerous in the box."

United fans are familiar with Romelu Lukaku – he must be a big plus for the national team?
“For sure. When he is fit and he’s in a good dynamic, it is difficult to stop him because he scores goals, he’s powerful and he’s dangerous in the box. He’s a good guy for us.”


Fans of the Premier League know a lot of the Belgium players. Are there any newer members of the squad that are worth looking out for?
“I think everybody! We have a lot of players playing in different countries for different big teams, so they can be dangerous. The stars are Hazard and De Bruyne but the rest are good players and can do something special.”

Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku stand for the Belgian national anthem.

Everyone must be excited about facing England in your final group game...
“Yes but, before that, we have two very important games, like England have. It is the third game, so I hope that the job [qualifying for the last 16] will be done before the England game. But I hope that it will be a good game, it will be a good test for us because it [England] is a good, young and energetic team. It will be good for us as well, the players playing for England, to play against them.”

Are you expecting a game that similar to a Premier League match?
“Yes, it will be intense, it will be hard work and full of quality. I look forward to it.” 

Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring the winner against Arsenal.

What kind of style do you expect from the English national team?
“They can play because they have good, technical players. They are physical but they are also very technical so they can play good football.”