Manchester United vs Chelsea: Marouane Fellaini, Louis van Gaal's renaissance man

Belgian played a crucial role in United earning a point at Old Trafford

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The Independent Football

The missing Diego Costa may have garnered more headlines than any Chelsea player this season, but Cesc Fabregas has been the crucial difference for the Blues this season.

The Spaniard dictates the way Chelsea play and he is the single most important reason for the west London club's brilliant start to the season.

But at Old Trafford on Sunday, Fabregas was not allowed to control the game in the way he likes. The reason: Marouane Fellaini.

This time last week the big haired Belgian was a £27.5m waste of money whose days at Old Trafford seemed numbered.

Heading into the West Brom game the 6ft 4in midfielder had played just 34 minutes of Manchester United's season, with two late introductions against Swansea on the opening day and for the final 10 minutes against former club Everton.

But Louis van Gaal turned to Fellaini at The Hawthorns and the floppy-haired midfielder has not looked back.

He scored the first equaliser against West Brom and was pretty good in his second-half cameo as United fought back to a late 2-2 draw.

At Old Trafford against Chelsea he was even better. He played a decisive role in the United equaliser, getting his head to the late free-kick but it was his play for the previous 93 minutes that stood out, especially his work against Fabregas and Nemanja Matic.

Fellaini was a constant annoyance to Chelsea's midfield pair, hustling and bustling around the pair to disrupt their flow.

He is a real asset from set-pieces for a United team that lacks power and strength compared to team's of years gone by. Chris Smalling is a powerful athlete but Marcos Rojo, the two full-backs and other midfielders lack presence; Chelsea combine skill with unmatched strength but Fellaini was able to tip the balance just enough.

In the Premier League strength and power is often as valuable an asset as skill; he is one of just a few players in Louis van Gaal's squad with that talent.

Fellaini's general ball skill and technique often come under fire, especially when United are attempting to break down teams who set out to defend, but it is not as bad as some make out. He was generally competent in possession against Chelsea and provided ample help to Robin van Persie, working hard in an attacking and defensive sense throughout the 90 minutes.

Manchester United are starting to look like a side that will finish in the top four and Fellaini, considered dead wood this time last week, could play a crucial role for the rest of the season.

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