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PLAY IT SHORT: Fellaini liability; Chelsea's Cole still No1; Halilovic sparks Barca exodus to England; Sherwood's farewell rant

FELLAINI JUST NOT MAN UTD MIDFIELD CLASSDefensively, in his present shape, Marouane Fellaini is a liability for Manchester United. The big Belgian won praise from his manager and teammates after Saturday's performance at West Bromwich Albion. But with the Baggies fielding Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob as two 'sitters', the system suited Fellaini's game. Up against more mobile midfielders in the guise of Ross Barkley or Toni Kroos, Fellaini is sure to be caught out. Even at the Hawthorns, he failed to track West Brom runners breaking from the middle third - particularly in the first-half. At Everton, where he played as a second striker, Fellaini would always make clear he saw his future as genuine, box-to-box midfielder. But for United, competing for titles at home and in Europe, the £27M man needs to get a lot stronger, fitter and defensively more aware if he's to get close to the midfield traditions of legends like Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Paul Ince.

CLEVERLEY SHOULD THINK OF BARRY, HUDDLESTONEThere's only one way for Tom Cleverley to get England fans off his back and that is to have a storming end to the season. Cleverley will feel insulted by the petition launched last week urging England not to take the Manchester United midfielder to Brazil this summer, but not half as much as the likes of Everton's Gareth Barry or Hull City's Tom Huddlestone. Both players have been matchwinners for their clubs - multiple times this season - but are being ignored by Roy Hodgson. When was the last time Cleverley could claim the same?

HALILOVIC TO SPARK BARCELONA STAMPEDE TO ENGLANDIt's a blow for the Premier League missing out on Alen Halilovic. Speaking with famed Croatian agent Nikky Vuksan last year, he tipped the Dinamo Zagreb prospect for great things - and Barcelona's deal justifies those words. But it's not all doom-and-gloom for English clubs. Barca may've pulled off a coup with Halilovic's capture, but watch this space, as the deal is sure to unsettle the Spanish giants' brightest midfield prospects. Sergi Roberto, Rafinha - currently on-loan at Celta Vigo - and Everton's Gerard Deulofeu, will be wondering where they now fit in. Given their recent approach to promoting from within, Barca are treading foreign ground bringing in a player of Halilovic's age to compete with their current 'B' team starlets. The Premier League's biggest clubs will be monitoring developments closely at La Masia leading up to the summer market.

CHELSEA LEGEND COLE STILL GREATAshley Cole hasn't suddenly become a bad player. At the start of the season, the Chelsea man, fresh from winning the Europa League, was being talked up as the best left-back in the world. Yet now, there's calls for him to not even be considered for England's World Cup squad. Madness! With Chelsea top of the table, you can't argue against Jose Mourinho's team selection. The Blues manager has never bothered with reputation and the left-back position is Cesar Azpilicueta's to lose. But the Spaniard's surprising form shouldn't reflect poorly on Cole. And if Roy Hodgson is planning to field the likes of Liverpool youngster Raheem Sterling and Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the flanks, they'll be best served by having an experienced pro behind them, rather than another rookie like Southampton teen Luke Shaw.

FA COMMISSION IGNORING SOUTHAMPTON?We're hearing chairman Greg Dyke's FA Commission are yet to speak with Southampton and their academy staff. Unbelievable! Charged with investigating how England's national team can be improved, you'd think a meeting with the Saints would be first on the agenda. They've already spoken with Chelsea and Fulham. Maybe they'll get around to speaking with Southampton, particularly Les Reed, their head of development. But you'd think, given the seriousness of the situation claimed by Dyke, that mapping out the secret of Southampton's success would be a priority.

ENGLAND COUP WITH GALLAGHER COMMITMENTGood news for England last week with Southampton centre-forward Sam Gallagher accepting a call-up to the U19 squad. Though Devon-born, 6ft 4in Gallagher has been a regular with Scotland youth teams until last week's England call. It's understood Gallagher has informed Scottish FA officials he doesn't want to be considered for future selection. Saints chiefs did not think twice about palming off Dani Osvaldo in January knowing Gallagher, 18, was ready to step in. The centre-forward already has made his Premier League debut since Osvaldo's departure and scored his first senior goal in the FA Cup win over Yeovil Town.

SHERWOOD FAREWELL SPEECHWas it his farewell speech? You have to fancy Tim Sherwood can see the writing on the wall after his rant against Tottenham's players on Saturday. Questioning their desire and character appears a real rookie mistake and will only strengthen chairman Daniel Levy's opinion of the need for an experienced manager, like Louis van Gaal, to handle the current squad. After defeat at Chelsea, Sherwood appeared determined not to miss, even taking a shot at Levy, questioning his support. Not exactly the kind of response which will appeal to future employers.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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