Goodbye to you, the grotesque prince who never asked to be born
There are certain periods in life – in all walks of it – in which particular individuals come to represent something bigger than themselves.
People like Neil Armstrong, Rosa Parks and Marie Curie are some of the first to spring to mind when you consider different periods in nature’s bizarre experiment that has become known as human existence.
They represent a spirit, a mindset, a moment in time which lives on in their memory.
One such person – arguably of lesser significance to world history than those mentioned previously – is Marouane Fellaini, who this week departed Manchester United for Shandong Luneng of the Chinese Super League.
The Belgian midfielder has left these shores after just under 11 years in a manner which was, at odds with his usual style of play, more of a whimper than a blaze of elbows and knees.
He was a central figure at Manchester United for five years but he will not be missed.
There have been occasional testimonials from revisionist supporters, describing him as ‘a fighter’ who ‘always gave 100 percent’. A nice way of remembering the man whose very existence provoked ridicule.
In short, his departure has been universally welcomed, even celebrated.
During his time at Old Trafford, Fellaini became – through no real fault of his own – the personification of everything that had become wrong on the pitch for the club since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Recruited by football’s version of Gil from The Simpsons, David Moyes, Fellaini was immediately looked upon as some sort of defect by United fans, as something which should not be.
Had he been signed by Ferguson it would have been something resembled an actual welcome. Ferguson could do no wrong, so even the presence of this Daddy Long Legs of a footballer would have been deemed acceptable at worst.
But he was signed by Moyes, the man unable to paper over the cracks around which Ferguson had built a mansion in his final years at Manchester United.
Every decision Moyes made was questioned, rightly so in the end, but it meant that Fellaini was immediately swimming against the tide, and the longer the malaise spread around the club, the more his position was solidified.
Whereas Ferguson was capable of producing a team which was more than the sum of its parts and which often (but not always) played attractive football, Moyes could only produce a team which was much less and played attritional football that only a mother could love.
It was in this climate that Fellaini became the whipping boy of Manchester United, their Frankenstein’s monster.
In the Theatre of Dreams, a stadium whose attendees had become accustomed to beauty, they could not accept this monster which had unwittingly been brought into their world, and they arrived at the stadium every fortnight equipped with metaphorical pitchforks in hand.
Throughout the tenures of Moyes, his successor Louis van Gaal and the most recent man to fail at the club, Jose Mourinho, he was often booed when entering and leaving the pitch.
Despite this he plodded along, scoring important goals, making the most of his limited set of skills and using his large, uncoordinated body to do what it was made for: cause destruction.
While used as a practical option by Moyes and van Gaal, Mourinho appeared to revel in the ghastliness with which the outside world viewed both Fellaini and his football.
His selection was one of protest, his manager brazenly telling his supporters “if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear”.
In spite of it all, Fellaini played on and carried out the acts he was built to carry out. He never moaned, often appearing simply like a man who knew he did not belong, but wanted to treasure playing for a club of worldwide prestige for as long as he could. An imposter who knew he’d been caught years ago, but was happy just to be involved.
When Jose Mourinho was sacked by the club in December 2018, it was welcomed by fans, not just because he was gone but also because, perhaps – finally – it meant that Fellaini would soon be on his way out too.
Interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared to recognise this when he took over from Mourinho, as evidenced by Fellaini’s two solitary appearances under the Norwegian between Mourinho’s departure from the club and his own.
He needed to make it clear that his stewardship of the club would be different, and not including Fellaini was the quickest and most clear way of achieving this.
Injuries to the 31-year-old helped, making it less a vicious dumping and more a conscious uncoupling.
Frankenstein’s monster never asked to be created, he was merely the product of an experiment gone woefully wrong.
He should not be blamed for what he was, and nor should Fellaini.