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Marouane Fellaini used to be the boo boy at Old Trafford but now he’ll be vital if Manchester United are to beat their noisy neighbours

THERE was a time when the sight of Marouane Fellaini signalled the end of all hope. An on-field symbol of David Moyes’ doomed ten-month reign. Thrown on late in games when Louis van Gaal’s philosop…

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THERE was a time when the sight of Marouane Fellaini signalled the end of all hope.

An on-field symbol of David Moyes’ doomed ten-month reign.

Marouane Fellaini has won the crowd over at Manchester United

PA:Press Association 8 Marouane Fellaini has won the crowd over at Manchester United

Thrown on late in games when Louis van Gaal’s philosophy had fallen to pieces.

Groans would greet his name on any starting sheet and cheers rang out when he was invariably taken out of the action.

Come Sunday, Jose Mourinho will be hoping the big man with the big heart is ready for the big derby.

Just as he was on a very big night in Stockholm at the end of last season.

Marouane Fellaini was instrumental as Manchester United dismantled Ajax

Rex Features 8 Marouane Fellaini was instrumental as Manchester United dismantled Ajax

The television cameras cannot keep away from Old Trafford and Jose Mourinho

PA:Press Association 8 Jose Mourinho will turn to the Belgian in the absence of Paul Pogba

With Paul Pogba suspended there is a gaping hole in Manchester United’s midfield.

Mourinho wants Fellaini in there, he needs the Belgian in there. The manager needs to dismantle Manchester City in the same way he did Ajax and Fellaini was key to that.

‘NO INTENTION’ Manchester United star Paul Pogba opens up about his Hector Bellerin stamp… claiming he would never hurt his pal on purpose

 

That night he was in tandem with Pogba but used in a very different way to how he would normally be in the Premier League.

While Ajax are not Manchester City, they play a very similar style, slick passing and very high pressing.

The Dutch side’s plan for that Europa League final was to hassle United in their own third and nick the ball straight back off them.

Marouane Fellaini became the symbol of David Moyes’ disastrous spell in charge of United

PA:Empics Sport 8 Marouane Fellaini became the symbol of David Moyes’ disastrous spell in charge of United

United will look towards Fellaini’s height as an advantage over Pep Guardiola’s side

AFP or licensors 8 United will look towards Fellaini’s height as an advantage over Pep Guardiola’s side

So what did Mourinho tell his players to do? Just bang the ball over them, take out the threat.
At first it looked desperate. But tactically it was spot-on.

What it needed to work, however, was Marcus Rashford’s pace running on to those long balls and Fellaini’s ability to win the ball in the air, hold it up and lay it off.

He did that superbly and Mourinho will need him to do it again. As good as United are — only City are better — they will not out-pass Pep Guardiola’s side.

Ander Herrera has lost his way in a red shirt

Getty Images – Getty 8 Ander Herrera has lost his way in a red shirt

Mourinho, however, always has a plan and this could be it if Fellaini can recover from a knee problem in time.

The manager gave hope that that was a possibility when quizzed about player availability for Sunday.

He will certainly want to lean more on him than Ander Herrera who is increasingly getting lost in games.

While he needs Fellaini to provide the brawn, there is little doubt Juan Mata can provide the brain that will be lost with Pogba’s creativity unavailable.

Witness his through ball for Rashford’s winning goal against CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night. He is certainly up for Sunday’s challenge as United look to cut that eight-point gap between themselves and City at the top.

Eight points. Ring any bells? It does for Mata who is quick to remind people how quickly that gap can be bridged.

Jose Mourinho has a dig at Arsenal and Manchester City’s injury ‘stories’ ahead of derby

Juan Mata’s creativity will be key if United are to unlock Man City

Reuters 8 Juan Mata’s creativity will be key if United are to unlock Man City

Manchester United won’t be able to out-pass Pep Guardiola’s side

AP:Associated Press 8 Manchester United won’t be able to out-pass Pep Guardiola’s side

In 2011-12 that was the difference between City and leaders United with six games to go. It was all over it seemed, but in the final stunning seconds of that season the advantage had been overturned.

Mata said: “I remember when United were ahead of City and then they won on goals. Its a crazy league and it’s too early to think that it’s finished.”

But Sunday’s showdown will go a long way to shaping this year’s title race and for Mata it will be some occasion. He added: “It’s a very special game, especially because of the position we both are in the table.

“Hopefully, first of all, it’s a great game of football and secondly we can win.

“We are doing what we have to do. We would love to be first in the table right now but we are doing lots of good things.

Five reasons why Mesut Ozil would be a perfect fit for Man United

“Now, especially on Sunday and during Christmas time, when we all know how difficult it is to win every game, we need to keep that pace if we want to be in a position to challenge at the end of the season.”

Team-mate Pogba spoke of his pain in missing Sunday’s derby — claiming he never meant the stamp on Hector Bellerin which earned his red card in United’s 3-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday.

It led to a three-match ban and Pogba said: “I’m very disappointed because I really want to help the team and be there for this derby.

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho tells Manchester City to can the celebrations until they actually win something

JOSE MOURINHO has told Manchester City: Don’t sing until you win something. City stars hailed the 4-1 beating of Spurs with a video mocking Mourinho’s tactics, chanting ‘Park the bus, park the bus,…

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JOSE MOURINHO has told Manchester City: Don’t sing until you win something.

City stars hailed the 4-1 beating of Spurs with a video mocking Mourinho’s tactics, chanting ‘Park the bus, park the bus, Man United’.

 Jose Mourinho has been his spiky best latelyPA:Empics Sport Jose Mourinho has been his spiky best lately

But the Special One rapped: “We don’t do circus. We want to play until the last match.

“Last match in the Premier League, Watford at Old Trafford, mid-May. Until then, every match we go.

“If you do that question to us and then you do it to the third and the fourth and to the fifth and to the sixth, probably they disappear.

“Probably they want to go on holidays. We don’t want to go on holidays.”

 Jose Mourinho claims Man City players were not showing respect in their celebrationsManchester City FC – Getty Jose Mourinho claims Man City players were not showing respect in their celebrations Manchester City stars mock Manchester United in dressing room after Premier League win against Tottenham

Mourinho sparked a 20-man tunnel brawl at Old Trafford last weekend when he confronted City players as they loudly celebrated their 2-1 derby win.

City’s taunt after Saturday’s victory over Spurs went viral on social media but Mourinho added:  “I didn’t see, I didn’t watch. I am not interested in doing that.”

 Manchester City understandably had some wild celebrations after winning the big derbyAFP Manchester City understandably had some wild celebrations after winning the big derby Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham: Kevin De Bruyne runs the show in dominant win as Raheem Sterling nets brace and Gabriel Jesus misses penalty

REDS RUN WILD West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard find the net before Gareth Barry’s late strike

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SPOTY 2017 voting figures: Anthony Joshua amazingly misses out on third by 18 VOTES – and where did Lewis Hamilton finish?

SIR MO FARAH won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in a huge shock in Liverpool. The running great, 34, retired from the track this year and picked up the big BBC prize for the first tim…

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SIR MO FARAH won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in a huge shock in Liverpool.

The running great, 34, retired from the track this year and picked up the big BBC prize for the first time in his career.

 Anthony Joshua is all smiles as Sir Mo Farah is named SPOTY 2017 winnerBBC Anthony Joshua is all smiles as Sir Mo Farah is named SPOTY 2017 winner

Farah was a 50/1 shot with the bookies before the end of year sporting bash.

Heavyweight boxing champ Anthony Joshua, meanwhile had odds as short as 1/8 to win. In the end AJ finished 18 VOTES away from a podium position.

 Unbeaten heavyweight world boxing champion Anthony Joshua was one of the favourites to win the main awardGetty Images – Getty Unbeaten heavyweight world boxing champion Anthony Joshua was one of the favourites to win the main award  Sir Mo Farah ended up winning the Sports Personality award ahead of Anthony Joshua and Lewis HamiltonPA:Press Association Sir Mo Farah ended up winning the Sports Personality award ahead of Anthony Joshua and Lewis Hamilton

Full BBC SPOTY voting figures

Mo Farah 83,524

Jonathan Rea 80,567

Jonnie Peacock 73,429

Anthony Joshua 73,411

Adam Peaty 63,739

Lewis Hamilton 60,627

Chris Froome 47,683

Harry Kane 18,759

Anya Shrubsole 15,237

Bianca Walkden 13,962

Johanna Konta 7,591

Elise Christie 6,504

Mo Farah finally gets to speak about winning Sports Personality of the Year award after live TV fail

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte in cash jibe at runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City

ANTONIO CONTE fears Manchester City will gobble up all before them because of the club’s mega-spending power. City are 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League after spending £220million in…

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ANTONIO CONTE fears Manchester City will gobble up all before them because of the club’s mega-spending power.

City are 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League after spending £220million in the summer.

 Antonio Conte fears Man City can afford to buy all the best playersGetty Images Antonio Conte fears Man City can afford to buy all the best players

Now they are ready with a £70m bid for Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk next month as they power towards the title.

Chelsea boss Conte reckons it is not a fair fight on or off the field as a result. He said: “Every team, every club, must pay great attention.

“If a club like Manchester City takes all the best players, it will be very difficult for us to compete — not only in England but in Europe.”

Chelsea could rival City in the hunt for Van Dijk but the Etihad outfit are favourites along with Liverpool  to land the highly-rated Holland centre-back.

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 City are storming towards another Premier League titleGetty Images City are storming towards another Premier League title

Conte admits City boss Pep Guardiola has used his money well — even if their spending power has given the league leaders the edge.

Chelsea’s Italian boss said: “When you have this opportunity to go in the market to spend a lot of money, I think it is right to do this.

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“You must obviously be very, very good to spend your money in the right way. Sometimes you can spend a lot of money in a bad way.

“You must be clever to understand the positions you have to improve. Last season we did a fantastic job.

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