Twelve months ago an 18-year-old unknown Belgian burst onto the footballing scene with a sensational brace to help secure the three points for United at The Stadium of Light. The second strike in particular a sublime finish to really evoke that the Red’s had someone quite simply very special on their hands.
One year on and the players career has somewhat stalled a little. After being handed the coveted number 11 shirt this summer which had only been previously worn by the legend that is Ryan Giggs, the winger’s opportunities have been more than limited so far this season. Restricted to just the odd brief appearance from the substitutes bench the young Belgian has had a curbed opportunity to impress and has arguably cut a frustrated figure at times. The frankly daft comparisons between the player and the 19-year-old Raheem Sterling down the M6 have faded away sadly with the latter having benefitted from his enhanced game time.
Januzaj’s entrance at home to QPR perhaps summed up the players campaign so far. After initially injecting some energy into a game simmering its way out, the winger found himself in a great position on the edge of the penalty area to provide an assist for the onlooking Robin Van Persie and Radamel Falcao. In normal circumstances Januzaj would have picked out his teammates but on this occasion he opted for the shot, blazing the ball high and wide in the Stretford End faithful. This had followed a previous effort which has been well saved by the opposition goalkeeper. Quite simply, the Belgian was trying too hard to impress and more importantly feeling the pressure for the need to impress.
It would be simply wrong to question the player’s commitment and attitude however. United’s number eleven has taken part in both the club’s last two U21 fixtures, scoring a superb hat-trick at home to Sunderland and then getting his name on the score sheet again with a breathtaking free-kick away to Spurs, helping drive United’s young side to the top of the league. It is easy for a player who has had the taste of first team action as much as Januzaj to become complacent and disinterested at this level, this young starlet however has continued his drive to succeed. This should not go unnoticed.
Something that has conceivably hampered his life slightly under new manager Louis Van Gaal was his limited pre-season. Adnan Januzaj’s success last season has possibly been his downfall after being part of the Belgium squad that reached the Quarter finals of the World Cup. Despite being an incredible experience and learning curve for the winger it somewhat reduced his time to impress his new manager and put in a claim for a regular place in the Dutchman’s starting eleven.
With Ander Herrera now out injured with a fractured rib and Wayne Rooney also sidelined with a three game suspension there may now be an opening for Januzaj to show his worth in the team. His performances for the U21’s must have elevated himself into the back of the manager’s mind and his ability to play in that number ten role could make him a real asset. Darren Fletcher is perhaps his main opposition which would result in Juan Mata filling that vacant number ten role. However, there is no reason why Mata can’t slot in alongside Daley Blind leaving Januzaj to operate behind the front pair of Robin Van Persie and Falcao.
People forget that Januzaj is still only a mere 19-years of age so he still has the whole world at his feet in terms of nailing down a starting spot at United. The five year contract signed by the player last year also resembles his desire and ambition to succeed at the club. Some supporters however may be wary that we could easily have another Paul Pogba situation on our hands. United’s abysmal showing last year and the embarrassing result against MK Dons has meant that the Red’s are only likely to play around forty games this season. With a lack of game time the winger may become disgruntled with life at Old Trafford and without doubt there would be plenty of suitors waiting to snatch the youngster away next summer.
The arrival of Angel Di Maria for a British record transfer fee has also been touted as another obstacle which could stagnant the number eleven’s career. There is a strong argument however that this should not be portrayed as a negative in any shape or form. The Argentine is unquestionably a fantastic role model for Januzaj and almost certainly the youngster will learn invaluable attributes from the new number seven. The pair are both left-footed, are both predominantly wingers and also share the same talent of having the ability to play in that modern number ten role. United are quite simply blessed with talent.
Adnan Januzaj was one of the very few positives from last season. A certain Scotsman who shall remain nameless on this site managed him well from the start until he opted to drop the winger for large chunks of games without any real reason. His 17 starts for both club and country cannot be ignored however with the 4 goals and 3 assists just a taste of his capabilities. There is no defense against the statement that the youngsters career has halted at present but the next three games may quite well be his time to shine. Adnan Januzaj is a boy who can do anything.