Juan Mata backs Marouane Fellaini to flourish after Hull goal
Marouane Fellaini has lacked some support from the stands but always retained his teammates' belief, with Juan Mata backing the Manchester United midfielder to flourish after a morale-boosting night.
The 29-year-old has been a divisive figure since arriving at Old Trafford in 2013 and his stock plummeted last month after he clumsily gave away a penalty that allowed former club Everton to snatch a late draw.
Fellaini was booed by pockets of United supporters at their next home match, yet manager Jose Mourinho has stuck by the Belgium international.
That faith was repaid on Tuesday when the substitute directed home a late header in the EFL Cup semifinal first leg against Hull, wrapping up a 2-0 victory that he celebrated by giving the United boss a big hug on the touchline.
"Maybe Marouane feels that the manager has belief in him and that is why he celebrated like that,'' Mata said afterwards.
"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. I am delighted for him.
"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 teammate is not in the best situation and it is difficult for him, we have to be there to support him.''
Fellaini's name echoed around Old Trafford after what felt like an important goal in his United career -- a moment Mata believes can be the catalyst for improvement.
"I think this will be a boost for his confidence,'' he said. "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.''
Confidence is something new Hull manager Marco Silva is trying to build at the KCOM Stadium.
A whirlwind first week in the job began with a 2-0 FA Cup win against Swansea before Tuesday's loss at Old Trafford, with Bournemouth now looming large in a crunch match for the Premier League's bottom side.
"For sure, Bournemouth is a big game,'' Silva said. "It is the next one and we must prepare well for this.
"The players that played against Manchester United must rest and make a good recovery. When we are at home, we need to win points for our position in the table.''