I'll start this by saying that the scapegoating of Marouane Fellaini from my fellow Manchester United fans for the piss-poor performances that have been put in consistently since the turn of the year, bar Marcus Rashford's explosion onto the scene and a 10 day high, is something that grinds my gears.
He's big, he's clumsy, and he and loses a shocking amount of ariel duels for someone of his stature, but he is not to blame for the lack of creativity in that United side. He is being done no favours at all by Louis Van Gaal asking him to play in a two man midfield, but there comes a point where something has to give.
In my time I've seen some absolutely shocking players play for Manchester United, and amongst the David Bellions, Eric Djemba-Djembas and Bebes, Fellaini is nowhere near as useless. He does, however, appear as useless when his genuine use is completely ignored.
But this is not about how poorly he has been playing recently. If it were I would point to the run which ultimately secured United Champions League football at the back end of last season, and the integral role he played in that spell, to suggest that he has shown better. Instead, this is about how difficult it is to watch such an obnoxiously reckless player get away with murder every time he takes to the pitch.
I've never ever seen a player use his elbows as much as Fellaini.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 17, 2016
Gary Lineker's tweet after Fellaini planted a deliberate elbow into the back of Dejan Lovren's head during Thursday night's Europa League clash, his second elbow on a Liverpool player of the night, accurately sums up the feeling towards him from outsiders looking in, but let me tell you, as a Manchester United fan, it's not very different.
Fellaini is all elbows. He cannot set foot on a football pitch without jabbing a pointy Belgian bone into an opponent, and it does my head in. He tries, on the pitch, he honestly does, and I genuinely believe that Manchester United are soft in the middle and need an enforcer in there, but that's not the Big Fella. You couldn't describe him as someone who 'likes to get stuck in'. Darren Fletcher was someone who liked to get stuck in. Marouane Fellaini is little more than a hazard to everyone in his general vicinity.
It's extremely tough to watch. I've seen players do some dirty things as a Manchester United fan, and the first instinct is to condemn the act but argue that 'he's not normally that type of player', but that is simply impossible with Fellaini.
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) March 17, 2016
We tweeted the above during the match, as not 10 minutes had elapsed when Roberto Firmino felt the full force of those elbows. #ElbowWatch was a joke, but what if there was someone actually tracking the amount of nasty elbows he leaves on his opponents time and time again? The numbers would be an absolute farce.
I honestly don't understand how he gets away with it either.
Referees know that you are not allowed to put your arms across an opponent's face for leverage in an ariel duel, so why do they allow him to do it so much? Last week Rio Ferdinand said the following the BT Sport studio, and it made my blood boil:
Fellaini is all elbows, but that's how he plays, you know what you're getting from him.
"That's how he plays"... Illegally?!
People used to say that Peter Crouch would get penalised for his size when defenders tried to beat him in the air, but the opposite can be said of Fellaini. He is allowed a stunning amount of leeway when it comes to pushing, pulling, and blatantly elbowing his opponents.
That's how he plays, because he is allowed to play that way.
It's getting tougher and tougher to stomach. I saw a LOT of United fans on Facebook and Twitter claim that they would not be watching the match with Liverpool once they learned that Fellaini was starting, and while I don't believe they actually meant that, and I will never reach a point where that determines whether or not I watch a United match, it's somewhat understandable.
I support Manchester United because of Eric Cantona. He was a man who occasionally lost the plot, and the infamous kung-fu kick is a big part of why I started to notice him as a child with no previous interest in soccer. Cantona, like another hero of mine in Roy Keane, occasionally pushed the limits of what was acceptable behaviour, but at the end of the day they played football first.
I can't say the same about Marouane Fellaini.
In summary; what is it like to watch Marouane Fellaini as a Manchester United fan? It's really, really difficult. I'll support him as long as he wears the red jersey, but jesus, like a parent who's child simply refuses to study for the leaving cert, I'm at my wits end.