Manchester United have confirmed that they have exercised a clause in Marouane Fellaini’s contract, extending the Belgian’s stay at Old Trafford until the summer of 2018.

It was believed that Fellaini had signed a five-year contract when he joined United from Everton for £27.5 million in the summer 0f 2013, but it turns out that he had signed a four-year deal, with a clause to activate the final year of the contract.

United have now taken up that clause at a time where Fellaini has been the subject of interest from Chinese clubs and Italy, in the form of both Inter and AC Milan. The 29-year-old would also have been free to talk to foreign clubs from January 1 before becoming a free agent in the summer had the club decided not to extend his contract.

Clive Mason/Getty Images Sport

Despite the doubts of United fans, Fellaini has become a valued member of José Mourinho’s side and was backed by his manager after sections of Old Trafford booed the Belgian after he came on as a substitute against Tottenham last month as a result of his mistake costing United a point against Everton the week prior.

However, Fellaini has bounced back from that disappointment in recent weeks, putting in a fine performance against Reading in the FA Cup on Saturday before scoring his first goal of the season as United beat Hull City in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final on Tuesday. The Belgian raced to the touchline to embrace Mourinho after scoring – a sign of jubilation after being backed by his manager.

Equally, the move could be seen as United protecting their investment to guarantee a transfer fee if Fellaini is sold at the end of the season. The Reds triggered a similar clause in Dimitar Berbatov’s contract in February 2012 before selling the Bulgarian striker to Fulham for £5 million six months later.