LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini has been trusted and valued since day one, manager Jose Mourinho said after the Belgian scored a brace in a 4-0 Premier League victory against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Belgian has often been a peripheral and derided figure since arriving at Old Trafford from Everton in 2013 but under Mourinho is becoming a crucial asset in a star-studded United squad.
With big money signings such as Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic claiming many of the plaudits in midfield for a United team who have claimed 19 points from a possible 21 to sit joint-top of the fledgling table, Fellaini has quietly become a key piece of Mourinho’s team.
“I always trusted him since day one,” Mourinho told the BBC.
“I always try to give him confidence and show him how useful he is to the team — starting matches, coming off the bench, playing offensively, playing defensively. I always try to show him how important he is to me.
“I think only a strong character could resist the difficulties here because he had some difficult times when people didn’t recognise his qualities, when other managers didn’t like so much the qualities he has.
“He had to be a strong character. He is a fighter, a guy with lots of pride and I am really pleased I helped him reach this level and change the perception the fans have now. I am really happy for him.”
After Juan Mata’s opener, Fellaini volleyed home his first before a headed second took his tally to four goals in eight games in all competitions this season.
The 29-year-old was heavily linked with a move to Turkish side Galatasaray in the summer but remained in Manchester and is reaping the rewards with free-scoring United firing on all cylinders this season.
“Sometimes we like players others don’t like,” Mourinho continued.
“Some players perform better with some of us than with others and I have examples of players that didn’t perform well for me and then performed well for other managers.
“I think Marouane has important qualities and I try to use them depending on the situation and what they team needs.
“He plays with me as a defensive midfielder, as a second striker, as one of two midfielders. He is a team player. A great character. We have a good relationship and things are going really well between us.”
Reporting By Tom Hayward, editing by Pritha Sarkar