As the transfer window slammed shut, Marouane Fellaini sat back and watched the ink dry on a dream £27.5million move to Manchester United from Everton. After handing in a formal transfer request at Everton early on transfer deadline day, reuniting with former boss David Moyes at United was always the only thing the Belgian actually wanted that day but was it the same for Moyes? The timing of the signing and the final amount paid suggest not and has made a few question if indeed Fellaini was in fact Moyes primary midfield target or actually his fourth choice?
When the shock announcement came in May that Sir Alex Ferguson was to leave Old Trafford and be replaced by fellow Scot Moyes, speculation began over who would be the new manager’s first signings. Three names were banded around – one in sheer hope (Cristiano Ronaldo) but the other two made sense as both moves would see Moyes return to Goodison for players he knew well – Baines and Fellaini. As Everton’s stand out players, Moyes knew everything he needed to know about the duo including their strengthens and weaknesses. Moyes probably had a chance to speak to both of them privately between the period of finding out he was the new United boss in May and officially taking the reins on July 1st. The pair have both spoken publically about their interest in a move to United and about linking up with Moyes again but it wasn’t until mid July that United made their first move with a £9million bid for Baines which was turned down by Everton. Whilst the left back position was identified as an area of concern for United, with the aging Evra unable to continue to play with the same tenacity much longer and Dutch replacement Alexander Büttner looking less impressive by the day, it was the gap in central midfield that should have taken key priority. Indeed Moyes after two weeks in charge and now suffering from the news that Darren Fletcher would not be back as expected for pre season following a flare up of his IBS, Moyes put his first bid in but it wasn’t for Fellaini, instead Barcelona’s Thiago. The talented Spanish midfielder looked to be on his way before performing an expected U Turn when mentor Pep Guardiola came calling from Germany. Moyes, reeling from the failure to snag Thiago went on the hunt again but once more shunned Fellaini in favour of former Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas. This time the player said no, leaving Moyes with no choice but to look again. Fellaini by now was biting at the bit to join United but refused to put in a transfer request, presumably as he wasn’t sure that it would do any good. With the window now weeks away from closing, Moyes stepped up his hunt putting in an unsuccessful bid for Roma’s Danielle Di Rossi and enquiries about Real Madrid trio Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric before eventually turning to Fellaini to solve his central midfield headache.
Fellaini eventually arrived at the club for £27.5million but United fans will be wondering why Moyes took so long especially as the Belgian could have been acquired for £4million less if he had acted sooner. It has come to light that Fellaini had a transfer release clause in his contract that would have allowed United to sign the powerful midfielder for £23.5million but they had to do so before a July 31st deadline. Moyes knew about the clause as he was the one who requested it be put in Fellaini’s contract in the first place so why did he hesitate? Either Moyes didn’t believe Fellaini was worth £23.5million, questioning why he would then pay more for the player or more likely Moyes believed he could get a better player than Fellaini for the same money. Arguably Thiago, Fabregas and Di Rossi are all better options than Fellaini but none of them looked likely to join United this summer whereas Fellaini was already packed and ready to go. Granted Moyes put in a joint bid for Fellaini and Baines but it’s looking increasing more like Baines was the player of interest and Fellaini was a bonus.
Everton wasted little time replacing Fellaini with accomplished midfielder Gareth Barry and rising Irish star James McCarthy but the loss of the iconic player will tell over time. The Belgian is a fantastic player, comfortable both in front of the defence as he is behind the striker and will give United more options than they currently have. Moyes spoke of his delight in capturing Fellaini yesterday but reading between the lines, Moyes is likely to be disappointed not to have secured one of his first three options instead of the perm haired Belgian.