Marouane Fellaini is not Diego Maradona but deserves credit for delivering in crucial moments, according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
Belgium international Fellaini sent United through to the last 16 of the Champions League with his decisive 91st-minute strike in the unconvincing 1-0 victory over Young Boys on Tuesday.
Mourinho celebrated the goal – which saw the Belgium international match Maradona’s tally of two strikes in Europe’s premier club competition – with vigour, picking up and throwing a crate of bottles into the ground on the Old Trafford touchline.
The often maligned Fellaini, 31, also scored a last-gasp equaliser in the eventual EFL Cup loss to Derby County in September.
“I think now everyone gives him what he deserves,” Mourinho said. “I think everyone knows Marouane is not Maradona but everyone knows what Marouane can give.
“This season and last season he did many times what strikers cannot do, which is score important goals that give important victories.
“I know the positions he can play and jobs he can do.
“You saw him as a central defender against Burnley and as a striker on so many other occasions. Then you see him as a number eight where Marouane has more balance and know-how.
“He is very important in both boxes. People know what Marouane is and he also feels that good feeling.”
Jose on @Fellaini: “I think he’s getting credit now. Everybody knows what Marouane is, and what he can give us. Many times he has scored important goals in important moments that give us important points and victories.” #MUFC pic.twitter.com/5oBh6ljfhg
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 30, 2018
Fellaini’s impact enhanced his case for a second successive start when United visit struggling Southampton on Saturday.
Diogo Dalot, who has struggled for fitness since arriving from Porto, is in line to make his Premier League debut with Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian unavailable.
“He is ready now,” Mourinho said of the Portuguese full-back.
“He had an important injury, surgery, then a second injury in the national team when he was coming up, when he was already playing against Young Boys and Derby County, when he was almost here.
“But now he has been training for two weeks and we think he is ready now.”
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