Marouane Fellaini: How to win an aerial battle

Manchester United's towering Belgian has six tips to help you dominate your opponent in the air

Find space in the box

"It's difficult to find space because I know that the attention is always on me when I'm in the area. But I'm used to it now and the first thing I'll do is try to talk with the referee and tell him to watch what is happening inside the box, to watch if I'm being fouled. He can't see everything that's happening in a crowded penalty area, so you have to help him. Then when the ball is played into the area I'll try to get free of the defenders by moving a lot, so I can get my head on the ball."

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Unsettle your marker

"If you can't get a free header, you need to hold off the defender without giving away a foul. I always try to win that battle with my opponent, and it's something you get better at with experience. I'll try to push the defender a little bit and try to destabilise him. If you can start by winning the first or second header of the game, you will begin to dominate the defender. Then he'll start to get nervous."

Be determined

"Because I'm tall, headers have always been one my strengths. But it's not just about being tall; you have to be more determined than your opponent as well. In England it's very hard to score because defenders are very strong and aggressive. You have to be more aggressive than them, and want to win the ball more than them. Then once you've got your head on the ball, the power on your header has to be right - and of course the placement."

Get your timing right

"I work on my jump a lot because timing is the most important thing when you're trying to win a header. You must be better than your opponent with the timing of your jump. In training I'll practise a lot with headers in front of goal. Giggsy or a player will cross the ball and you practise so that you're good in the air during the game, so that you're there at the right moment. It's difficult to practise as much when you're playing two games a week, but whenever there's time I do it."

Bring your team-mates into play

"It's not just about heading for goal. Sometimes you need to knock the ball down for someone else. You have to judge those types of headers by feel, to make sure you get the right power and direction. You also need to have the vision to see where your team-mates are, and where you have to head the ball. Again you need to work on it in training, practising headers when the goalkeeper kicks a long ball. Timing your jump is important again."

Improve your strength

"How you use your body is important when you're challenging for headers. Some players are naturally strong, but you have to work on your strength in the gym as well. All the players at Manchester United work in the gym and you work on a lot of things, including your legs and your upper body. Sometimes we'll work on our strength four times a week, sometimes three. If you're playing 90 minutes in every match you need to recover, but you work in the gym when you can."

 

*Marouane Fellaini wears the new Lava/Fireball New Balance Football Visaro boots, designed for players who ‘Make Chances’. To find out more about New Balance Football go to newbalance.com/football or follow @NBFootball on Twitter

 

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