Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini has revealed conversations with manager Louis van Gaal helped him transform his career at Old Trafford.
Fellaini, a £27.5m ($41m) signing from Everton in August 2013, was widely tipped to leave the club in the summer of 2014 following a dismal first season during David Moyes's disastrous reign in charge.
But the Belgium international has been integral to United's revival this season with his recent performances against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool helping the club establish themselves in fourth place with a five-point cushion ahead of their rivals.
Now a vital member of Van Gaal's first-team plans, Fellaini has thanked the Dutchman for keeping to his word and giving him chances to save his career.
"He [van Gaal] told me: 'Prove yourself and we will see," Fellaini was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror. "Now they are counting on me. There were never any real doubts for me. I was injured at the beginning of the season and then returned. The coach gave me confidence, and I proved myself in a few matches.
"After that, I was injured and I got sick. For three weeks I was on antibiotics. It took a while, but now I can finally enjoy things."
Van Gaal's authoritarian approach to management has rubbed off on Fellaini, who believes that is exactly what the club needed after last season's failings.
"The coach is very strict, but that is good," he continued. "We needed such a coach. Last season we had a bad season – we even missed European qualification. We needed a coach who would put some players' feet back on the ground.
"If he says something, you should do it. Otherwise, if he has to take you off the pitch when the game hasn't been going on for more than 30 minutes he will do it. Or during half-time. Fortunately, that hasn't happened to me yet."