Juan Mata has hailed Marouane Fellaini’s rehabilitation into Manchester United’s first team, which was boosted further by a potentially crucial EFL Cup semi-final goal on Tuesday.
Fellaini was a figure of derision earlier in the season when he emerged from the substitutes’ bench late in the game at Everton, only to almost immediately give away a penalty that cost Jose Mourinho’s side two points in a 1-1 draw.
The Belgium international’s latest cameo appearance was much more fruitful, netting a late header to give United breathing space over Hull City and secure a 2-0 win that puts one foot in a Wembley final.
Fellaini ran to the touchline to thump into an embrace with Mourinho and Mata believes the manager keeping faith with the former Everton man has brought good performances out of him.
— Marouane Fellaini (@Fellaini) January 10, 2017
“Maybe Marouane feels that the manager has belief in him and that is why he celebrated like that,” Mata said.
“I am very happy for Marouane because he has had difficult times since he came to the club.
“But he is a great guy. He is a great person. He trains always the best he can.
“It was an important goal for him and when you come onto the pitch in the second half you are always trying to do something to change the game and he did that. I am very happy because he deserved it.
“He always gets on very well with everyone. Since I came here he was a good friend of mine and everyone in the dressing room.
“Everybody was happy for his goal. When a team-mate is not in the best situation and it is difficult for him we have to be there to support him.
“I think this will be a boost for his confidence. It was good to hear the stadium singing his name because he deserved it.
“He is a strong man with experience. He is not a young player. He is 29 so he has lived so many things in football but it is not nice when you play in your own stadium and you have not the best atmosphere.
“But now it is different and it has changed. I think it is going to be positive for him in the future.
“It makes it easier for you as a player when you feel the confidence of everyone. You feel an even better player. Confidence is very important for any player and hopefully Marouane now has his back.”