Jose Mourinho hinted that Marouane Fellaini did enough on a redemptive outing back in the Manchester United side to keep his place when they travel to West Ham on Monday.
Named in the XI to face Middlesbrough on New Year's Eve, Fellaini had not started a game for United since November 6 and had been admonished in that time for a disastrous substitute outing at Everton, where he conceded a late penalty.
The Belgian was as tidy as typically physical against Boro - a game in which Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba struck in the final five minutes to snatch a 2-1 win.
With Michael Carrick missing the Boro game due to illness, Mourinho specifically praised Fellaini, saying that United fans who had booed him in recent weeks would change their tune.
Also discussing the fitness of captain Wayne Rooney, Mourinho told reporters: "I hope [Carrick will be fit at West Ham]. I don't know. Rooney has a little chance and Michael has a bigger chance, let's see how he is.
"But I'm really happy with Fellaini. I'm really happy with the way he played.
"The connection with the fans, I think they realised how useful he is, they realised how much he is with the team."
Mourinho paired Eric Bailly with Chris Smalling in defence, despite Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo striking up a strong partnership of late and the Ivorian jetting off for Africa Cup of Nations duty ahead of the West Ham game.
The United boss explained his selection: "I know that I will lose Bailly for a month and I'm going to have Smalling, Rojo and Jones - three players for, I think, eight matches.
"Bailly is leaving. Bailly goes to the national team. He has to be in the national team on January 2.
"We asked them for him to be on the third. They refused. So he cannot play against West Ham.
"I wish Ivory Coast to be champions because with these kind of decision it's because they are controlling every second. For sure they are going to win the African Cup."
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