Man Utd star Marouane Fellaini is loved by Jose Mourinho for his fierce training, quick wit and team spirit

Marouane Fellaini roars in celebration after scoring Manchester United's second goal

Marouane Fellaini was met with hand clasps and back slaps when he arrived back inside the Old Trafford dressing room on Tuesday night.

Moments before the Belgian had headed Manchester United into an extremely commanding position in their EFL Cup semi-final against Hull.

His team-mates were enraptured, congratulating Fellaini one by one before Jose Mourinho delivered the manager's brief address.

  The Belgium international ran over to celebrate with Jose Mourinho following his goal

The Belgium international ran over to celebrate with Jose Mourinho following his goal

 Fellaini made a point of running over to his manager after being given his public support

Fellaini made a point of running over to his manager after being given his public support

 The former Everton man's looping header evades Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic

The former Everton man's looping header evades Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic

FELLAINI'S UNITED STATS

2013-14: 21 appearances, 0 goals

2014-15: 31, 7

2015-16: 34, 4

2016-17: 20, 1

Total: 106 appearances, 12 goals

Fellaini, they felt, stuck it to the doubters. At Carrington he is a hugely popular member of United's squad and players have felt sorry and been left disappointed at the central midfielder's recent treatment by a section of supporters.

Fellaini was booed a month ago when introduced as a late substitute during victory over Tottenham Hotspur, leaving first-team stars aghast.

They could not understand why, with the game still finely-balanced at 1-0, fans would choose to launch vitriol at a player brought on to see the result out.

There was always insistent he would shrug the situation off but still left downcast for it.

Thousands had jeered as he ran on that day a week after a kamikaze cameo away at Everton, where he gifted the Toffees a point by giving away a penalty.

The reception he was given against Spurs opens up a debate over those who pay and travel to watch home fixtures and their attitudes towards some of United's players.

They see Fellaini as indicative of David Moyes' unimaginative management, part of the problem under Louis van Gaal, and enveloped by frustration at his performances for both.

But Mourinho and his two predecessors clearly see the value in the former Everton man. Morgan Schneiderlin has been allowed to depart while Fellaini remains, with Bastian Schweinsteiger all but frozen out of first-team action too.

Both Van Gaal signings, both in effect outstayed by Fellaini - a fierce trainer and hard worker.

Interestingly, Ed Woodward's insistence that Everton pay £22million (plus £2m in add-ons) for Schneiderlin is partly borne out of the fee they splurged on Fellaini four years ago.

 Fellaini was booed at Old Trafford after he gave away a late penalty against Everton

Fellaini was booed at Old Trafford after he gave away a late penalty against Everton

 His last goal before his header on Tuesday came against Everton in April's FA Cup semi-final

His last goal before his header on Tuesday came against Everton in April's FA Cup semi-final

That money was eventually hiked up by millions after United embarrassingly missed the deadline to meet his release clause.

Fellaini is said to be a funny guy, quick-witted in the dressing room and can lift spirits when the going gets tough. And it has been tough this term - especially for Fellaini himself. It is why he made a beeline for Mourinho once ball hit net against Hull, warmly embracing his manager.

'He wanted to show that he knows how much I supported him in difficult moments,' Mourinho said.

The Portuguese is right, of course, throwing him on against Tottenham after a fairly disastrous substitute appearance at Goodison Park where Fellaini, all arms and legs, could not even trap possession let alone keep it.

 Fellaini has had a topsy-turvy career at United since David Moyes signed him in 2013

Fellaini has had a topsy-turvy career at United since David Moyes signed him in 2013

 Mourinho has cashed in on Morgan Schneiderlin rather than the much-maligned Fellaini

Mourinho has cashed in on Morgan Schneiderlin rather than the much-maligned Fellaini

Mourinho was undeterred by the booing by the home fans, also introducing Fellaini at The Hawthorns on December 17.

The away section at West Brom responded in kind, singing his name and affording him a huge ovation. That, some fans argued, showed the mentality gap between the different sets of supporters.

'He coped well with the situation, he was not afraid after Everton,' Mourinho added on Tuesday night. 'He scored an important goal and it's changed the dynamic.

'He's always supported by myself and he knows he's a very important player for me.'

Mourinho was never in any doubt that Fellaini could handle the ever-increasing number of doubters, and that has been proven by refusing to take him out of the firing line over the last two months.

 Fellaini  started the season in a two-man midfield with United summer signing Paul Pogba

Fellaini started the season in a two-man midfield with United summer signing Paul Pogba

It is also easy to forget that Fellaini started this season fairly well, impressing in a couple of games. But others - noticeably Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick to complement Paul Pogba - have taken over him on a consistent basis.

Fellaini, for his part, understands that. He also understands that criticism will come his way. Yet Mourinho knows he is a player who will faithfully try to carry out whatever he is asked.

United's players have a team-mate devoted to the cause and Moyes actually best summed Fellaini up himself.

'He will do anything you ask,' Moyes said. 'And all you'll ever hear from him is 'thank you, coach'.' Just one of many reasons Fellaini could not move for hugs and handshakes post-match.

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By Shane Walker 01/11/2017 06:59:00