The good news about Marouane Fellaini, the Belgian midfield star, is that he’s playing in the European Champions League. The bad news is that he’s not playing for Everton, which isn’t participating the ECL or, for that matter, in any European football.
Everton transferred Fellaini to Manchester United an hour before the close of the transfer window. It’s seldom a happy day when your club sells a world class player, but this sale went pretty well by Everton standards.
Fellaini seemed destined to leave for Man U from the moment that our long-time manager David Moyes was placed in charge of the champions. After all, United’s biggest need was a strong, versatile, all-action midfielder. Everyone knows that Fellaini fills that bill, and Moyes, who brought Fella to England, knows it better than anyone. Everyone also knows of Fellaini’s justified desire to play European football.
But Fellaini didn’t try to force a sale by falling out with the club, like Wayne Rooney did. In fact, Fellaini let a clause in his contract expire under which he could, in effect, have forced a sale at a particular price. As a result, when Fellaini later quietly submitted his transfer request, Everton received an extra 3.5 million Euros for him. The total fee was 27.5 million.
Fellaini also didn’t try to force a sale by playing crap football in the games leading up to the close of the transfer period, like Joleon Lescott did. He scored the winning goal for Everton in his next to last game and was arguably our best player in his swan song.
When Felaini left, Everton (for once) was ready to pounce. Just before the window closed, we bought James McCarthy, one of the better young central midfielders in the Premier League. We also picked up midfielder Gareth Barry on loan from Manchester City. Until recently, Barry was a starter for the English national team. In his first Everton appearance, he put on a man-of-the-match performance in our upset win over Chelsea.
The addition of Barry and McCarthy should offset Fellaini’s absence from the midfield engine room. But Fella was also our top scorer.
To pick up that slack, we obtained Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea. The 20 year-old Belgian was the Premier League’s sixth leading scorer last season, netting 17 times while on loan to West Bromwich Albion. Lukaku also played a major role (along with Fellaini) in Belgium’s 4-2 win over the U.S. earlier this year. You can see here an odd video of Lakuku, Fellaini (he of the big hair), Everton’s Kevin Miralles, and other members of the Belgium squad “bonding” before a recent match against France.
Meanwhile, Fellaini had his Champions League debut today — a 4-2 Man U win over the German side Bayer Leverkusen. Moyes used Fellaini as a traditional central midfielder rather than a combo central midfielder/forward, as was often the case at Everton. Fella had a strong match alongside Michael Carrick, who surely is delighted finally to be paired with such a forceful player.
But United’s hero today, and by a big margin, was the other ex-Evertonian, Wayne Rooney. During the transfer period, Rooney pouted like it was 2004, once again trying to force David Moyes to sell him — this time to Chelsea.
That move was never really in the cards. Chelsea desperately needs a world class center forward. Moyes might just as well sell Man U’s EPL crown to Chelsea as sell them Rooney.
So Rooney is still at Old Trafford, and today (as he has thus far this season, including against Chelsea) he lit up the place. The “Assassin-Face Baby” (as he has been called, a bit too harshly) produced two goals and one assist.
Today’s goals make Rooney the top British scorer in the history of the Champions League. They also raised his total Man U output to 200. Only Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, and Jack Rowley — legends all — have topped that number for United.
But will Rooney stay with the club long enough to break Charlton’s record of 249?