Fellaini rejects Arsenal to stay at Manchester United as Mourinho cools Arnautovic interest

Marouane Fellaini has agreed a new contract at Manchester United
Marouane Fellaini has agreed a new contract at Manchester United

Marouane Fellaini has agreed a new contract at Manchester United. The Belgium international – currently on duty at the World Cup – has accepted a revised two-year deal with the English Premier League club, bringing an end to months of uncertainty for both the player and his manager, Jose Mourinho.

Fellaini’s decision to remain at the club he joined from Everton for a fee of £27.5million in 2013 will allow United to redirect some of this summer’s transfer budget to alternative targets. Such was the Belgian’s tactical importance to Mourinho, the coach had drawn up plans to recruit a replacement with comparable aerial ability.

West Ham United forward Marko Arnautovic was one of the players identified for the role. However with the London club resisting the Austrian’s sale and Fellaini now secured, United are expected to look elsewhere. Mourinho wants reinforcements in defence and attack in addition to the completed signings of Brazil midfielder Fred and Portugal under-21 right back Diogo Dalot.

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Fellaini talking himself into trouble
Fellaini talking himself into trouble

With Fellaini seeking an improvement on the terms of a five-year contract that was set to expire at the end of this month, United had faced the prospect of losing a player of significant tactical value to Mourinho for no transfer fee. According to a source close to Fellaini, the 30-year-old rejected a proposal from Arsenal to remain at Old Trafford.

The midfielder was also courted in Turkey and by AC Milan, although the Italian club’s ability to meet the 30-year-old’s financial demands was constrained by UEFA Financial Fair Play sanctions. Fellaini’s preference was to continue a productive working relationship with Mourinho, who had asked executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to retain the Belgian.

Fellaini made 47 appearances for United in his first season under the Portuguese manager, Mourinho utilising his aerial ability and willingness to follow a range of tactical instructions as United won a Europa and League Cup double. At the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign, Fellaini was regularly used to allow Paul Pogba to adopt a more attacking role in United’s formation.

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A medial knee ligament injury sustained on international duty in October restricted Fellaini’s involvement for the rest of that campaign, ultimately limiting him to 23 appearances.

“He’s a very important player for me, much more important than what you can imagine,” Mourinho said. “I feel weaker without Fellaini in my squad, it doesn’t matter if he is on the pitch or on the bench.”

Asked at Tuesday’s Belgium national team press conference if the uncertainty over his future was a worry for him Fellaini said: “No. Since a few months I am used to it. I am strong mentally to deal with it. But soon I will say where I will be playing next season.”