LONDON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Marouane Fellaini is no Maradona but he scores important goals and deserves plenty of credit, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said on Friday in a strong tribute to his big Belgian midfielder.
Fellaini’s stoppage-time winner against Swiss side Young Boys sent a mis-firing United into the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.
“I think now everyone gives him what he deserves,” Mourinho told reporters ahead of Saturday’s Premier League visit to Southampton.
“Everybody knows Marouane is not (Diego) Maradona but everybody knows what Marouane is and what he can give...this season and also last he did what strikers couldn’t do, which is score important goals in important moments.”
Fellaini has been at United since 2013, brought to the club by his former Everton boss David Moyes in a move that did not go down particularly well with fans.
Mourinho has been supportive, however, using Fellaini’s height and direct style to good effect in a variety of roles in defence and attack.
“This season you saw him as a third central defender against Burnley,” he said.
“And you saw him as a striker on many occasions and sometimes as a number eight, which is basically the position where Marouane has more balance and know-how.
“But he’s very important in both boxes, first third and last third. Now people know what Marouane is and he also feels that good feeling.”
United are seventh in the Premier League with 21 points from 13 games ahead of the trip to St Mary’s Stadium. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)