(Photo credit: REUTERS/Ian Walton)
The tactic is a simple one yet for many teams, it often proves difficult to combat.
Twice in the dying stages of Sunday’s Premier League tussle between Manchester United and Arsenal, the hosts put two dangerous crosses into the penalty area. Twice, they found the head of Marouane Fellaini.
The first one ricocheted back off the post and Marcus Rashford, standing in an offside position, scored. The second saw the Belgian midfielder score the winner, albeit with a small element of good fortune with his header deflecting off a defender and spinning into the net.
Hitting the heights
After the match, Jose Mourinho cited Romelu Lukaku’s absence through injury and subsequent lack of attacking aerial presence as the main motivation behind introducing his international teammate.
It was largely assumed that the former Everton midfielder was in his final days at Old Trafford, with his contract expiring and no renewal announced.
"We are almost there but I can't celebrate because almost is not enough," said Mourinho after the match.
(Photo credit: Reuters/Carl Recine)
"I want to see the white paper with the United crest and [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward and Marouane Fellaini's signatures.
"I think a player that grabs the crest after scoring is telling clearly that he wants to stay, I want him to stay, the club wants him to stay, I think he will stay.
"We are trying to think about our team, little touches, little replacements - a Michael Carrick replacement, this kind of situation - but until now I didn't lose one second thinking about a Marouane replacement."
A valuable asset
Signed from Everton for £27.5 million in September 2013, the 30-year-old has netted 19 goals in 154 appearances for the club.
A quirky statistic is that he has scored for the club at the semi-final stage of the Europa League, the FA Cup and League Cup.
(Photo credit: Reuters/John Sibley)
His goal on Sunday clinched Champions League qualification for next season. This is a player, clearly, who has value.
Fellaini is deserving of a new contract and the one reservation is that Mourinho perhaps values him too highly.
Rightfully seen as a trusted lieutenant who can carry out set instructions on the pitch – a value the Portuguese coach values more than any other – the midfielder can often be out-of-step with the pace and intensity of a match.
Worthy of respect
It is for this reason why it was damaging to start him, whilst clearly not at full-fitness, against an energetic Sevilla team in March’s Champions League encounter.
Conversely, his impact as a substitute is unquestionable. He provides excellent chest control and a threat in the air. He is aware when to make the right runs and when to bring others into play.
This is not a player who would thrive in a system demanded by Pep Guardiola or even Mauricio Pochettino or Jurgen Klopp.
Yet this is a player loved by Mourinho and it should not be forgotten that while he was signed by David Moyes and played - more than any other boss – by Louis Van Gaal, he was a player originally wanted by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Fellaini may not be loved widely at Old Trafford but he should be respected, just as he is by his current manager.
What do you think? Should Fellaini be offered a new contract at Manchester United? Let us know by commenting below.