MAROUANE FELLAINI knows exactly what he brings to Manchester United.
No fuss, no nonsense, he simply delivers what the manager wants.
And that is no mean feat when the boss is as demanding as Jose Mourinho.
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That is why the unmistakable Belgian has survived for so long at Old Trafford while many big-name stars have fallen by the wayside.
Angel Di Maria, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay, Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Nani, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Wilfried Zaha have all departed during Fellaini’s four years at United.
Gaffers David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have also been and gone, yet Fellaini remains a constant.
Reflecting on his recent 12-month contract extension he said: “I don’t have a problem with my managers because they all trust me.
“I’m not a player who will dribble past five players to score, but I know my quality.
“I am there for the team. When the manager says I have to play more defensively, I am happy to do the job. If he says get into the box and score a goal, I try to do that.
“It’s nice when the manager speaks well about me, but do you know why he says those things? Because it’s the truth!
“He sees and hears everything, he reads everything and he knows what I can do on the pitch every day in training.
“I have a good relationship with Jose. I respect him and he gives me confidence.
“He called me and texted me on my holiday before he arrived at the club to tell me that he trusts me and that I was part of his plans.
“And when a manager tells you that, you give everything for him.”
Prior to our meeting at the Manchester hotel where Mourinho still lives, Fellaini had sent the internet into meltdown with pictures of a visit to the barbers.
Yet his trademark Afro is still very much in place as he strolls into the restaurant accompanied by his lookalike younger brother Mansour.
It is almost impossible to miss the towering duo, yet the laid-back United star seems unaware of the excitement his presence generates among diners.
There are no airs or graces about the softly-spoken Belgian international as he chats in fluent English about a season which has so far produced two goals in 26 appearances.
There was speculation he would not be at Old Trafford at all when the club paid £89million to sign Paul Pogba in the summer.
Fellaini added: “When you buy a player like Pogba for that money, everyone knows he will play. At the start we played together, then the manager found another solution, but I am still here at a big club with big players.
“There is always a lot of talk around a club like Manchester United.
“The people who talk give me more motivation to do better, to work harder in training and to show myself in the game for the team and for the manager.
“All the rest? Bulls***. I don’t listen to it any more.”
Fellaini, 29, was hammered when he conceded a last-minute penalty against former club Everton in December which denied United a crucial away win.
But he insisted: “Some fans booed me after the Everton game but after that it was done and forgotten. I’m the first person to know when I’ve made a mistake. I am an honest person and don’t need people to tell me when I do well or when I do bad.
“I’ve faced a lot of things in my life and career, so I don’t need to keep thinking about a mistake. It’s part of football.”
Victory over Watford at Old Trafford this afternoon could take United into the top five but Fellaini still remembers the painful 3-1 defeat at Vicarage Road in the first weeks of Mourinho’s reign.
He said: “When a new manager comes in he has to find his balance, establish his philosophy and his way of playing.
“But I never had any doubts because we have so many great players in the team and on the bench ready to come on and make a difference.
“Now the manager has worked with us since July and the understanding is better. So it will be different to the last time we played Watford.”
United are currently 15 games unbeaten in the Premier League yet in all that time have still not risen above sixth place in the table.
It is clearly a source of great frustration for everyone at the club, with Fellaini admitting: “We haven’t lost for three months but we have drawn too many games.
“We should be winning games like Stoke, Burnley and Hull at home and to drop six points in those games is a lot in the Premier League. Of course it annoys the manager because it feels like a defeat.
“It’s frustrating for the players as well because we created so many chances against these teams.
“But there are still 14 games to go, the gap to the top four is now down to just two points and we still have to play Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham away.
“Last season we missed out on the Champions League in the final week of the season.
“Now we have more players with experience and maturity and a manager who wants to do the best so we are more confident of qualifying this time.
“It will be tough because we are also fighting to win the FA Cup, League Cup and the Europa League. But we have the squad to compete for all three trophies.
“A club like Manchester United has to play in the Champions League so the minimum this season is to be top four.
“It is going to be difficult for anyone to catch Chelsea this season, but next year Manchester United will do everything to be champions again.
“Four years without the title is too long. We have to fight to be the biggest team again.”
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