How Fellaini overcame 'worst' season

Wednesday 27 March 2024 09:25

There’s an exciting episode of the UTD Podcast in the pipeline, as we recently spoke with former Reds midfielder Marouane Fellaini about his journey with the club.

Fellaini, who retired from professional football in February, played for United between 2013 and 2019, scoring 22 goals in 177 appearances and winning three trophies.

The 87-cap Belgium international was on punditry duty for the friendly with England at Wembley on Tuesday, as he decides where the next step lies.

Earlier this month, Marouane was interviewed by Helen Evans and Sam Homewood and he admitted that his first campaign at the club, under David Moyes in 2013/14, was the most difficult season of his career, following a big-money move from Everton.

United, who were reigning champions, finished seventh – our lowest league position since 1990 – while Fellaini was restricted to 12 Premier League starts. A goalscoring threat for Moyes with the Toffees, he didn’t find the net for the Reds in that first season.

“The first year at Manchester United was very difficult for me because, like you said, I was the first signing after the era of [Sir Alex] Ferguson and it was not easy,” Fellaini explained.

“I'm honest and I always said that the first year was very difficult for me, but for the team too. We did a bad season, you know?

“It was a nightmare one for a few months. It was not easy at all and, when you are in this situation as well, mentally it’s not good, it’s not easy.

“I played five years for Everton, doing very well [and getting] respect from everybody. Then you go to a big club and mentally it's difficult, as your football is not the same.

“You know, for me, it was the worst [season] in my career, my first year in Manchester. Mentally, too.”

Happily, things would improve for Fellaini at United.

Moyes was replaced as manager by Louis van Gaal, and the 2014/15 term was the Belgian’s best on a personal level, as he scored seven times in 31 games, despite not initially being the Dutchman’s first choice.

He was a key figure in our FA Cup victory of 2016, and made 47 appearances the following season, as Jose Mourinho succeeded Van Gaal and guided the Reds to EFL Cup and Europa League triumphs.

“After that [first season], it was much, much better,” he continued.

All The Goals: Marouane Fellaini Video

All The Goals: Marouane Fellaini

Marouane Fellaini scored 22 times for United, with every strike available to watch in chronological order here...

“I knew my team-mates. I knew the club, I knew how to work with this situation and I think, for the last four-and-a-half years, I did a good job.

“I would never criticise David Moyes because he gave me my chance in England: I played under him nearly every game [at Everton].

“When Van Gaal arrived, it was a new change. He didn’t know English football, he didn’t know certain players and he didn't know me too.

“I had to train harder to prove to him that he could count on me and that’s what I did. When he arrived, he said to me: ‘I don't count on you. You are my third, fourth, fifth choice’ and I said to him: ‘No problem, I’ll get training.

“In my head, I was saying: ‘Let's train and we will see in the end what happens.’ After that, [within] one week, 10 days, maximum two weeks, I started to play.”

Fellaini celebrates with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and the EFL Cup trophy in 2017.

Fellaini became something of a big-game player for United, scoring important semi-final goals in the lead-up to his three major trophy wins with the club.

He also netted in Old Trafford victories against Arsenal and Manchester City but it arguably took until his departure from the club in February 2019 for his contributions to be widely recognised and respected.

Looking back, Marouane doesn’t mind that and says he has no regrets from his time in English football.

“Now, I don't have a problem with any Everton or Manchester [United fans]. I don't have a problem with the fans at all.

'It was a nightmare for a few months!' Video

'It was a nightmare for a few months!'

UTD Podcast clip | Big Felli admits his debut season was a 'nightmare', in this compelling section of his episode...

“I think I did my job, I did everything I can do, and I pushed myself to the best I can. You know, I never cheat.

“This, for me, is the most important: all my ex-team-mates respected me. I never had problem with my team-mates, or with my coaches.

“I gave everything. Okay, it’s a shame we didn't win the Premier League, but I think that's okay.”

Come back on Easter Monday (1 April) to listen to Fellaini’s podcast episode in full.