Marouane Fellaini provides a solution and another problem for Manchester United

Michael Regan

Manchester United looked far better with Marouane Fellaini helping to make up a proper midfield, but his inclusion will bring problems of its own.

Marouane Fellaini gave an odd impression for Manchester United - they looked like a team that was capable of passing, pressing, and tackling in midfield. If you'd watched them in ignorance, it would've been the first time in many years where the first thought wouldn't have been "why is that man in a red shirt standing in the middle of the pitch, and why are they only playing with ten men?"

More from our team blogs: Manchester United blog The Busby Babe

There are two possible conclusions here: either Fellaini is much better than many people gave him credit for, or Anderson and Tom Cleverley are far worse than people imagined. The truth is probably a little bit of both, but the transformation of United yesterday can't be underestimated. Bayer Leverkusen are a very good team, and barely created a chance all game. They were fortunate to get their two goals and fortunate not to concede more.

There is, however, a problem. It's a very familiar story for lesser teams to press the bejesus out of bigger opponents in the first 60 minutes of game, giving them a scare before running out of puff and falling to a late flurry of attacks as their fitness abandons them. It doesn't usually happen for bigger teams, who don't need to charge around like lunatics to keep things level, but United may find they have a similar problem.

Their bench was part of the reason for this. Rafael's injury aside, last night's team selection was something close to their best eleven, but the bench didn't inspire at all. It was full of too many players like Cleverley and Ashley Young who are the sort of players you pick to start when better options aren't available - it's difficult to imagine a scenario where either would be good options to come off the bench and change a game, in the way that the likes of Wilfried Zaha or Adnan Januzaj would be.

Because of that, it also means that United don't have anyone to continue the midfield pressing when Michael Carrick and Fellaini are tired. Carrick is already immobile and very slow, so ineffective at pressing, so Fellaini is doing the running of two men. Wayne Rooney has no qualms about running out, but unfortunately his legs write cheques that his lungs are incapable of cashing, so this also becomes a problem.

In short, if United continue their plan yesterday, they'll dominate many first halves but struggle as the game wears on. The exact opposite of the traditional route for the club. The problem is exacerbated by Shinji Kagawa, who is continuing his irritating habit of fading out of games badly. He was exceptional for the first half yesterday, but became largely anonymous in the second. Interchanging him with Januzaj, who has a similar problem (but far more excusable given his age) might be the best plan there.

But for Fellaini, there is no replacement. Tom Cleverley cannot tackle or position himself intelligently on the pitch, so is next to useless at pressing. Anderson can be effective, but only one out of every four of five times. It'll be interesting to see how Moyes gets around this conundrum. Certainly, a better use for substitutes will need to be found. He was occasionally criticised by Everton fans for having uninspiring benches that lacked the power to change games, but this was often put down to financial restraints. United will have to hope that was the case.

*     *     *

The introduction of Carlos Tevez to Juventus ought to have been a game-changing signing that ticked several boxes in giving the Italian champions what they were lacking, and yet last night was a familiar display, falling behind to a manifestly inferior but well-organised team before only being able to salvage a draw.

It's not a huge matter of concern, but although in practice the opposite has proved true, Juve should be a side better equipped for the continental stage than the domestic one. They struggle to break down teams, but are such a phenomenally solid outfit that it's hard to imagine them losing too many. Yet when taking to Europe, something looked different, and Tevez ought to have given them the extra bit of quality necessary to be considered real contenders.

Perhaps the question instead, if Juventus disappoint this year, is whether they have gone as far as they can under Antonio Conte. Stuck in the same rigid formation all the time, playing the same football, relying on the same players, the Juve manager has done a tremendous job in training a solid team and keeping a harmonious dressing-room, but he seems to have gotten stuck, run out of ideas at the last real hurdle Juventus face in returning to their perceived rightful place as genuine Champions League contenders.

The bizarre obsession with Sebastian Giovinco, and the fact Federico Peluso still has a job are both fairly minor problems. Far better managers have been guilty of far more numerous and more baffling eccentricities, but whether Conte can get away with it remains to be seen. A disappointing exit this year may not be tolerated for long.

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