Marouane Fellaini just keeps on improving and impressing every Manchester United fan, player, and coach.
The distant days of his own fans booing him and wanting him out of the club are now a prehistoric memory, with the Belgian international proving his worth when needed the most.
Jose Mourinho has installed a granitic like mind-set into Fellaini’s head, one which uses criticism as a motivational tool to improve his weaknesses and enhance his strengths.
There was once talk of Fellaini’s name being at the top of the United transfer list, and just a year ago there was a possibility he would head to AC Milan.
The talk of the town had grown, and football commentators and pundits claimed that there was a player who didn’t suit the United style of play looking out of place in midfield.
Now it is evident though that those allegations were born out of frustration of a mechanical structure installed by Louis Van Gaal, where at times there were those who wanted Fellaini to do badly so the club could get rid of him.
He’s still asked to play in a relatively deep midfield position, but the difference is now he is wanted at the club, part of a team who have scored free-flowing goals at every opportunity this season.
Now the Belgian feels loved, and so far this year he has given United an enduring presence in the centre of the field, alongside the equally industrious Nemanja Matic.
Fellaini’s greatest strength is still his ability to be a permanent nuisance from set pieces though. No surprise then yesterday he managed to bag two goals from inside the box against a wilting Crystal Palace defence.
The first was like a tribute act to United from 2015, Ashley Young’s whipping delivery from the left finding Fellaini at the back post to double United’s lead after Juan Mata had opened the scoring after just three minutes.
Palace had not even scored a goal in the Premier League, and it was not long before their defence, devoid of confidence, crumbled again.
Just three minutes into the second half they faced a free-kick to the left-hand side on the edge of the box. United this season have become like footballing sunflowers, with over half of their team over six foot.
Yet this was an easy free-kick to defend. Get a goal-kick and work from 2-0 down. Well, Marcus Rashford had other ideas, his swirling cross finding Fellaini on the centre spot, the Belgian poking the ball home to put the result beyond any doubt.
To be in the right place at the right time is an art, and it sums up Fellaini’s footballing career. Against Palace he won three aerial duels and interceptions, sucking any life out of the away sides’ potency in attack.
What is perhaps more surprising is that the Belgian had a 90% passing rate, an astonishing improvement under Mourinho.
Paul Pogba’s injury has given Mourinho a dilemma and while the United manager has many options looking to Fellaini on a consistent basis may prove a masterstroke.