Panache required as Fellaini arrives

Posted by Mark Payne

John Peters/Man Utd/Getty ImagesMarouane Fellaini looks set to make his United debut on Saturday versus Crystal Palace.

December 16, 1972, was one of Manchester United's darkest hours. The team lost 1-5 at home against Crystal Palace, and the side who lifted the European Cup just four years before were faced with humiliation. A repeat this weekend is unlikely, but anything less than victory over Ian Holloway's Palace would be met with gloom. United need a victory.

Manchester United were able to report back with nearly a full squad after the international break. Crucially, new signing Marouane Fellaini is fit and is likely to start at lunchtime on Saturday. Upon arrival, Fellaini said: "I need to work hard for my place as there are a lot of good players in the club." This is true, but it has been a while since United have had a player like Fellaini, and they need him.

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David Moyes identified midfield as the area to improve when he arrived at United. Most of the club's fans came to the same conclusion in 2009, and Fellaini is the current antidote to United's lightweight presence in that part of the field. "I want to play as a defensive midfielder," he said, which must have been music to the ears of supporters. He will need to keep up with the passing to hold a place in the team, though.

Encouragement can be found in the fact that Fellaini won more headers than all of United's midfielders put together last season. Nonetheless, he will ultimately be judged by how he performs in the Champions League, which begins this week against Bayer Leverkusen. However, an encouraging start against the newly promoted Palace wouldn't hurt.

Palace manager Holloway gave United an almighty fright with his Blackpool team two seasons ago, and the Londoners head to Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime buoyed by their recent victory over Sunderland.

United's players were stung by defeat at Liverpool and an immediate response is expected. In fact, more than that is expected. United are required to play with panache, and this could be an outing for the wingers. Nani signed a new contract last week and Wilfried Zaha could be selected against his old club too. If United don't attack against Palace, they never will.

It has not been an auspicious time for the club of late and managerial decisions are being questioned. The transfer window was discussed during Friday's news conference, but only as regards Fellaini's signing, not with the aggression that may have been expected.

There are also question marks over the role of Shinji Kagawa, who scored midweek for Japan. His name has been chanted at Old Trafford this season and there seems bewilderment as to why he hasn't been picked while Wayne Rooney is injured. Whether Kagawa can been expected to play so soon after travelling back from Japan is unknown, but he must surely be considered for the midweek game against Leverkusen.

This week also marks the 50th anniversary of George Best's debut for the club. It was actually a fairly inauspicious one in a 1-0 victory against West Brom. The skinny and homesick Best was knocked around and Matt Busby put him back in the reserves straight afterwards. He next played in the December of 1963 and scored in a 5-1 victory against Burnley.

It seems unlikely that the muscular Fellaini will be kicked out of the game on Saturday, but as Manchester United's sole signing of the summer, he can expect to be scrutinised. "My objective is to win a trophy," he said on Friday. In order to do that, United must win their home games in the league. That will be the minimum requirement at kick-off -- a bit of style would be good too.

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