Opinion: Fellaini has given Jose food for thought
In the last 65 days, Manchester United have played five games against our top-six rivals in the Premier League and Emirates FA Cup.
That big-match success has seen seven players being ever present in the winning sequence. David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku have been named in every single one of Jose Mourinho’s line-ups for those huge occasions.
Paul Pogba has missed out on just the Liverpool victory at Old Trafford. The Frenchman was sidelined for the Merseysiders' visit due to a late injury picked up in training. It is no secret then as to the eight players who provide the core of Mourinho’s XI for this kind of Category A fixture.
In the last three games against City in the derby at the Etihad, versus Spurs in the cup semi-final and in the latest 2-1 Premier League triumph against Arsenal, Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard have been regulars on the team sheet. The make-up of the chosen side appears to be clear.
Valencia, Herrera, Smalling and Pogba are the likely survivors from the 2-0 win in Sweden against Ajax, who could face Antonio Conte’s side. Possibly the final selection dilemma for the manager, assuming everyone remains fit, is whom to play alongside Chris Smalling in the centre of defence.
But then again the door is not completely shut on contenders to start at Wembley all over the park. Not when you have someone like Marouane Fellaini in your squad. It only takes a slight dip in form and someone knocking on the door could burst through the entrance, rip off the hinges and into the reckoning. And Fellaini isn’t a stranger to such dramatic mind-changing displays that confound those who think they’ve second-guessed a team line-up.
'I can be dangerous'Video
That contribution as good as sealed his name on the teamsheet in the Friends Arena. On that night, he won 15 aerial duels against the Dutch side which was a Europa League record stat. Fellaini is a very useful weapon to unhinge opponents, whether it is from kick-off or when he emerges off the bench as he did against Arsenal.
It may also have given Mourinho food for thought with Wembley around the corner. If anyone can upset Chelsea’s ball-playing engine room and provide a goal threat at set-pieces, then it is the Belgian. Perhaps the make-up of those lining up at Wembley isn’t as clear cut as you might imagine.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.