MANCHESTER UNITED have extended Marouane Fellaini’s contract by a further year.
The Belgian signed a four-year deal in 2013, with the option of an extra year.
And United boss Jose Mourinho took up the option last month despite a tough period for the midfielder.
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Fellaini, 29, celebrated in emphatic fashion by hitting United’s second goal in their 2-0 EFL Cup semi-final first-leg victory over Hull on Tuesday.
Now he hopes it will lead to a long-term contract at Old Trafford.
Fellaini was targeted by fans after his nightmare return to former club Everton last month.
He was sent on by Mourinho to protect a 1-0 lead but gave away a penalty with a minute left to cost United two vital points.
But his semi-final strike added to Juan Mata’s opener as the ‘Moyes Boys’ put United on the brink of Wembley.
Mata and Fellaini — both brought in by David Moyes during his ill-fated ten-month reign — got the goals to surely put the EFL Cup semi-final beyond Hull.
And nobody was more pleased than Mata to see his big pal finally embraced by Old Trafford’s Stretford End.
They sang the Belgian’s name as he warmed up on the touchlines — and the volume grew even louder after the substitute’s late goal.
Mata said: “I am very happy for Marouane because he has had difficult times since he came to the club.
“But he is a great guy and a great person
“Since I came here, he has been a good friend of mine and everyone in the dressing room. Everybody was happy for his goal.
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“When a team-mate is not in the best situation and it is difficult for him, we have to be there to support him.
“I think this will be a boost for his confidence.
“It was good to hear the stadium singing his name because he deserved it.”
Many United supporters jammed the post-match phone-in shows after Fellaini’s Goodison gaffe, insisting he had to go.
But what those irate fans probably did not know was that Mourinho is a big fan of the £27.5million signing.
Although he is by no means a regular starter, the United boss feels the 80-cap international gives him something nobody else in his squad can provide.
Fellaini knew there was interest in him from Italy and notably China, where he would no doubt be a big star and command a huge salary.
But his contract extension appears to have put a spring in his step, underlined by his goal heroics on Tuesday, which finally endeared him to the crowd.
As Fellaini’s name rang out around the ground, he ran over to Mourinho and wrapped his boss in a huge bear hug, almost knocking him into the South Stand in the process.
Fellaini has had to endure his fair share of jeers and sarcasm from the United crowd since he joined from the Toffees in 2013.
Mata insists his pal has found that tough to deal with and that it had affected his confidence. But the Spanish playmaker, who could himself be in line for a new deal with less than 18 months to run on his current contract, hopes all that is now behind him.
He said: “Marouane is 29 and has lived so many things in football.
“But it is not nice when you play in your own stadium and you do not have the best atmosphere. 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.”