Manchester United face fight to keep Mourinho favourite Marouane Fellaini at Old Trafford
Manchester United must persuade Marouane Fellaini that his long-term interest lies in signing a new contract with the English Premier League club. Old Trafford manager Jose Mourinho has asked the club to secure the Belgium international to a new deal along with fellow midfielder Ander Herrera, but Fellaini does not want to compromise on financial terms.
Fellaini – who is in the final season of a five-year deal after United activated a single-season extension in January – turns 30 next month and is conscious that his next contract is likely to be the last substantial deal of his career. Free to discuss terms with other clubs in January, he is understood to be ready to canvas options elsewhere should United fail to offer a salary that reflects his importance within Mourinho’s squad.
Signed for a £27.5million transfer fee in the summer of 2013, Fellaini’s status at Old Trafford upon Mourinho’s appointment had declined to the point where many observers expected the 1.94m Belgian to be immediately moved out of the club. Instead, Mourinho utilised Fellaini’s multifunctionality and willingness to follow tactical instruction to make him a key element of his League Cup and Europa League winning sides.
READ MORE: 10 games in, are Manchester United flying or flattering?
READ MORE: Mourinho has street named after him in home town
READ MORE: Man Utd to make move for Mesut Ozil next summer
Central to the strategic plan that secured United’s Champions League qualification in a 2-0 Europa League Final defeat of Ajax Amsterdam, Fellaini set up Paul Pogba’s opener in Stockholm. His early-season return of four goals places him as the club’s second highest Premier and Champions League scorer behind Romelu Lukaku, with Mourinho again deploying him in a broad range of roles, most recently as a stand-in for the long-term injured Pogba.
“He’s a very important player for me, much more important than what you can imagine,” Mourinho said recently. “I feel weaker without Fellaini in my squad, it doesn’t matter if he is in team or bench.”
Asked about a leading Turkish club’s efforts to sign Fellaini during the last window, Mourinho replied that “It’s easier for Galatasaray to get me than Marouane. If they need a manager, they have a chance, but Marouane? Forget it. He is too important to me”.
Fellaini has blossomed under Mourinho’s leadership, delivering the most confident football of his United career. The Belgian was particularly grateful for the manager’s decision to shield him from widespread criticism after conceding a penalty that cost two points at former club Everton in December. “When I feel that people trust me, I’m prepared to do everything,” said Fellaini ahead of the Europa League Final. “For Mourinho, I’d break my leg.”
Fellaini’s preference is to extend that working relationship beyond a campaign in which United have targeted a first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. However, according to sources close to the player, he does not want to take a significant financial hit to do so.
Mourinho also wants Herrera secured to a new long-term deal. The Spain international is in the final year of a four-season contract, with United holding an option to extend for one further campaign.
Contrary to recent reports that Herrera has fallen out of favour with Mourinho after inviting a friend with links to Celta Vigo to United’s training ground ahead of the two clubs’ Europa League semi-final, there have been no issues between the 28-year-old and his manager who considers Herrera fundamental to his plans for this and future seasons.