Marouane Fellaini’s comments reflect the alarming disconnect at Manchester United with fans


The Belgian’s words may have come across as odd and misplaced, and may not sit well with fans, who seem to have lost their interest in the club’s mediocrity.

Arsenal fans watching their team play Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium, in what became Arsène Wenger’s swan song as the headmaster of the Arsenal School of “Wenger-ism” last season, were in unsurprising awe and wonder of what was unfolding before their very eyes.

Their team were being outplayed, outclassed and outsmarted by a grooving City side that didn’t have to do much to bang their own drum and heap even more misery on the Frenchman.

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The familiar failings were there – the disorganized defence, the top-heavy approach and the feeble midfield – which showed a clear and concise detachment between manager and fans in the final run-in of Wenger’s withering reign. The fans were speaking, but Wenger wasn’t listening.

Rival fans ridiculed and laughed and teased in ways that became a sad spectacle to watch: for what Wenger brought to English football, he probably deserved better. But Arsenal fans deserved better, too. It wasn’t fair that their opinion was not being taken seriously anymore by him or the board.

In what has arguably been the clearest piece of evidence that Manchester United fans and the club are travelling in different directions, heading to remote continents and galaxies, Marouane Fellaini – in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports –  has come out and stated that United’s quality isn’t as far behind Pep Guardiola’s City side as it seems.

Are United fans being taken for a bewildering ride?

A 12-point gap and incomparable goal differences, City’s being +31 whilst United’s sits at -1, may suggest otherwise, but hats off to Fellaini – José Mourinho’s centrepiece Belgian comrade – for showing such bravery at a time when many fans have become worried, disillusioned and dare I say, disinterested, as United continue to alienate themselves from all that had made them such a ferocious monster of a club all those years ago in 2013.

What may have pushed the Belgian to utter these words? Was it a way of creating a distraction from the wider issues at hand? Could he have been tied up in a basement somewhere, speaking for dear life as Mourinho held a toy gun precariously to his back?

The fractious relationship among everyone involved with the club has been clear to see ever since the numbing Champions League sucker punch at the hands of Sevilla, with a number of Mourinho fans switching allegiances and asking for the manager’s head on a stake, and since then the situation at United has gone belly up with little room to manoeuvre and nowhere to hide.

In the midst of United’s slumbering season, there have been very few moments that have raised the crescendos, recharged the batteries and kicked in the Red Bull. The win against Juventus couldn’t save them from the blue streaks of City’s attacking verve. The comebacks against Newcastle, Chelsea and Bournemouth came from players that didn’t seem to be listening in the first place. The first ten minutes against Leicester City gave fans a glimpse of what could have been.

Yet there have been utterances, performances and actions that have rendered this season a no-show for fans, a nightmare that has no reset button. This seems like Manchester United: the Horror Movie in its sixth instalment since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. Forget the Europa League, FA Cup and Capital One Cup victories, or the second place finish – beyond the trophies, the situation screams of unchallenged mediocrity and frightening disconnect from what the wider United fan base believe in and expect.

Will there be a line drawn in the sand?

Will there be a line drawn in the sand, where enough is enough and the fans are saved from the unfamiliarity of being the 8th best team in the league as of now? Because, this is not where United should be, scrambling in mid-table with an eye on the top four places.

There has been talk of a European Super League recently, yet there isn’t much that is “super” about Mourinho or his band of misfiring misfits. The upcoming home fixture against Crystal Palace has the familiar bounce-back feel to it, as United exhibited against the likes of Burnley and Watford, the sort of matches that made you wonder if somehow, somewhere, a light bulb had finally been switched on and an approach had been found.

The real Mourinho was supposed to show himself, this tactical mastermind: special, full of high standards and passion for a club that needed it the most after David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. Lifesaver José, here to bring the fans back onside.

And whilst it all can’t be put on Mourinho’s doorstep, a significant portion of it has to be given to a man who has allowed United’s standards to drop and their results to be accepted. When players can openly speak and fans don’t agree, then the alarm bells need to ring very loudly. When invention and competitiveness have been scraped away for a more rigid approach, then what’s the point of being a fan? Interest is lost and life is meaningless.

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And just like Unai Emery’s efforts to bring the fans back from the Wenger wilderness seem to be igniting the relevance in Arsenal’s performances once again, the United hierarchy may have to act swiftly. To sit and allow this somewhat meaningless facade to continue would be a kick in the teeth of a fan base that doesn’t want to be detached from the team they love.