The emergence of Adnan Januzaj was one of the few positives to come out of Manchester United’s performances last season. The young Belgian thrived on his opportunities in the Manchester United first team and was often the focal point of David Moyes team. Januzaj announced himself to the footballing world by single handily winning the game against Sunderland, Januzaj scored both goals in a 2-1 win. His second in particular a gorgeous volley optimized the talent the young lad possesses.
Now playing under the guidance of Louis Van Gaal, Januzaj has seen very little first team action and has had to settle with playing regularly for the Under 21 side. With Van Gaal’s new signings and new philosophy, Januzaj has had to look on from the touchline and continue to be patient. There is no questioning Januzaj possesses a lot of raw talent but as Van Gaal has already proven reputations and egos don’t guarantee a place in his Manchester United team. Januzaj needs to knuckle down and continue to elevate his game, the addition of Angel Di Maria should be one which will galvanise Januzaj, seeing Di Maria in training and being able to learn from him should only boost his ability.
Van Gaal has already handed a host of first team debuts to a number of youngsters that have come through the clubs academy. Van Gaal clearly isn’t afraid of putting his faith in youngsters; the unfortunate predicament for Januzaj is that his favoured positon of attacking midfielder is arguably the strongest in the current United squad, occupying the likes of Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie as direct competition. Since his emergence and breakthrough last season the hype surrounding Januzaj has spiralled out of control, he needs to stay grounded and realise that only hard work will lift his game and reputation.
Januzaj has recently been handed the prestigious No 11 jersey, the jersey itself carries a huge burden, following in the footsteps of former player and current assistant manager Ryan Giggs. Giggs will be nurturing Januzaj and passing on as much advice and experience as possible. The club would not have handed Adnan the shirt unless they felt he was ready and capable of doing the jersey justice. Last season brought 35 appearances for Januzaj and was capped off by featuring in the World Cup with Belgium, however this year Januzaj has been restricted to brief cameo appearances of the substitute’s bench and is yet to start a game. Van Gaal did not even deem Januzaj worthy of a start as a much weakened United suffered a humiliating 4-0 Capital One Cup exit to League One MK Dons in late August. Januzaj did eventually make an appearance in the tie against Mk Dons, Dortmund bound Shinji Kagawa picked up a head injury and had to be replaced, Januzaj replaced the Japanese international but his omission from the starting line-up puzzled many.
Januzaj, for his part, is doing all he can to show he deserves his chance in United’s starting line-up under Van Gaal, producing regular outstanding performances for the club’s U21 side. He followed up a hat-trick for United’s Under-21s against Sunderland two weeks ago with a stunning free-kick and an assist in a 2-1 win away to Tottenham’s Under 21’s. It wasn’t too long ago that Manchester United fans were claiming that Januzaj was a better prospect than Liverpool’s wonder kid Raheem Sterling, Sterling has continued to dazzle and improve his game at a staggering rate whilst Januzaj’s career has stalled and failed to establish himself in United’s side. Januzaj will be carefully managed at United and they will be to keen protect Januzaj and ensure that he doesn’t suffer from burn out too early on in his career.
According to Januzaj’s agent, Dirk De Vries, Januzaj turned down a lucrative big money move to French giants Paris St Germain a year ago, with the Qatari-owned club hoping to cash in on his free agent status at the end of last season. That was before Januzaj committed his immediate future to United by capturing a deal which keeps him under contract at Old Trafford until 2018. Juventus and Fiorentina are reportedly keen on taking Januzaj on loan in January, a move which could make sense in terms of aiding his future development, if he continues to be overlooked by Van Gaal.
Januzaj seems determined to become a regular hit in Van Gaal’s side and has shrugged off claims that he is unsettled with life at Old Trafford “I’m happy to play anywhere for the manager,” said Januzaj. “I saw some reports saying I was unhappy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “I love this club and I’m excited to play for this manager. The fans have been so good to me and I want to repay them.” Additionally with United now restricted to two competitions and the big names Van Gaal has to choose from following the big-money summer spending spree, Januzaj’s patience may have to be stretched a while longer.