Fellaini shows up sorry Robinho
At Goodison Park
David Moyes demonstrated a sure grasp on football's fickle fates when he was asked if he was worried about whether Everton could hang on to Marouane Fellaini.
"You lot make me laugh," said Moyes. "A few weeks ago you were talking about when I was going to get rid of him."
Moyes had plenty to laugh about after Everton mauled Manchester City - whom he accused having "no class" and breaking transfer rules in last summer's pursuit of Joleon Lescott as he reopened old wounds via some incendiary programme notes.
If revenge is indeed a dish best served cold, then Moyes could barely disguise his pleasure at pulling something right from the bottom of the deep freeze and forcing Manchester City to choke on it.
At the pinnacle of Everton's finest performance this season was the towering figure of 22-year-old Fellaini, in every sense head and shoulders above every player on the pitch.
When Moyes claimed Fellaini was, on current form, the best midfield player in the country, even he admitted some wondered if he had misplaced his marbles. Plenty raised an eyebrow - some even raised two.
Robinho made virtually no impact at Goodison Park - but Fellaini was in a class of his own
Fellaini, until recent times, had rarely looked like justifying his status as Everton's record £15m signing from Standard Liege, his main virtues being nuisance value and a knack for a goal. The drawbacks were a habit of attracting yellow cards from referees - sometimes very harshly and seemingly based on the fact that was just so hard to miss.
He sparked as much comment for his unruly mop of fuzzy hair as he did for his performances. I had serious reservations about the Belgian's ability to adapt in the Premier League, and thousands of Everton fans would be lying to themselves if they did not share those concerns.
Indeed after a particularly hopeless effort against Benfica in Lisbon I suggested through the Twittersphere that he should lose the Afro as it was drawing attention to just how badly he was playing, and what a poor return on £15m he was proving to be.
Fellaini did not look anything like a £15m player against Manchester City. He looked worth more as the young giant's transformation continued, helped by finally being played in the position Moyes bought him for.
He ruled Goodison Park from his favoured midfield anchor role on Saturday, giving a near flawless display that he capped with a Zinedine Zidane-style dragback that left Craig Bellamy chasing thin air and was afforded the accolade of a spontaneous and deafening standing ovation.
Bellamy was gracious enough to congratulate Fellaini on embarrassing him as the Belgian flourished once more away from the spot behind the striker that he occupied with mixed results last season.
Fellaini was assured in possession, instrumental at seeing and dealing with any City danger and posed a goal threat, particularly in the air as shown by one late header that was clawed on to the woodwork by Shay Given.
Gone was the player who could at times look a lost and lonely soul in games, replaced by a confident and dominating presence that helped Everton give City a going over that is not reflected in the scoreline.
A few swallows do not make a summer and Fellaini must keep producing consistently, but he is now playing to a level plenty of Everton fans never thought he would attain.
He is not the best midfield player in the country, but he is heading up the rankings - and proving plenty of observers inside and outside Goodison Park wrong in the process, myself included.
It all added up to the perfect day for Moyes. The Lescott affair still rankles badly as he complained that City treated Everton with "little respect" - although I would suggest offering £24m for the player in question is very respectful, not to mention foolhardy.
When I saw Moyes after the derby defeat against Liverpool at Goodison he looked at the end of his tether. Everton were struggling near the bottom of the table and the riches on offer at places like Eastlands suggested he had already banged his head on the Premier League's glass ceiling with a fifth-place finish and an FA Cup Final appearance last season.
Since then Moyes and his team have looked rejuvenated, and the manner in which they dominated Manchester City will have reaffirmed the Scot's faith that he can compete, even without massive reserves of cash in the bank, through the art of good management.
Landon Donovan's loan signing is the sort of market Everton operate in, and the man from LA Galaxy was one of the game's brightest performers, helping Steven Pienaar terrorise and trouble City from midfield.
And if there is a walking, talking advert for the perils of an unlimited transfer budget, it comes in the shape of Robinho, who deservedly suffered one of the biggest humiliations that can be visited upon a professional footballer: being the substitute who was so bad that he was substituted himself.
There was understandable surprise when Roberto Mancini hooked the Brazilian after 55 minutes of token effort, but the logic was perfectly clear. Why keep him on when he contributed nothing? Why keep faith with a player who barely broke sweat and went out of his way to ensure he was always second to a succession of challenges?
Robinho has much to do to convince Roberto Mancini of his worth
Mancini was not posturing or grandstanding by taking off the £32.5m striker. He was doing the right thing - strong management in action.
Robinho's removal was an even bigger headline-grabber than Fellaini's brilliance, but he does not deserve the stage. I made my feelings clear about Robinho in a previous blog after his poor performance against Stoke in Mancini's first game.
Some Manchester City supporters felt the words were harsh. Were they really? Did you watch him at Goodison Park? He has no future at Eastlands. The problem will be finding someone to take him off Mancini's hands.
This was rightly touted as City's first serious test under the Italian. It was an examination they failed against an Everton side who appeared to share their manager's determination to make City pay publicly for the disaffection caused by the Lescott saga.
City's defeat should still be placed in its proper context. They are in a very healthy league position and Mancini's substitution of Robinho at least demonstrates they have a manager who will confront big decisions and big personalities.
Mancini was gracious in defeat as he praised Everton's excellence, while Moyes was obviously relishing the moment.
Back to those confrontational programme notes. "For many reasons I think this is a game we have all been looking forward to at Goodison Park."
And, judging by the unbridled elation written in every line on Moyes' face, it had been well worth the wait.