18 year old Adnan Januzaj announces his arrival in The Barclays Premier League and allows Manchester United fans to start dreaming again.
The mercurial Belgian starlet illuminated The Stadium of Light on Saturday night with a virtuoso performance and two stunning goals as Manchester United recovered from a goal down to beat Sunderland 2 – 1 and provide a timely boost to besieged boss David Moyes.
Januzaj, making his first league start for the club, outshone his far more illustrious team mates with a magical performance that conjured up comparisons with Paul Scholes, and captured the imagination of United fans praying for the next Ronaldo or the new Rooney to break through and rescue United’s stuttering season.
With Nani on the opposite wing, Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia looking on from the bench, and Ashley Young and Wilfried Zaha presumably watching from their sofas at home, Januzaj staked his claim for a regular place in the first team in spectacular fashion. With United lining up in their usual 442 (or 4-2-3-1 to be precise) formation Januzaj started on the left but before long he was drifting inside to pick up the ball and run at defenders; jinking and feigning with purpose, intelligence and, most encouraging of all, an end result.
Throughout a game in which both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie struggled to make an impact, the young Belgian excelled. His progressive passes, clever turns and elusive runs caused panic in the opposition defence. The first of his two goals was a composed right-footed finish after good work from Patrice Evra. The second, a left-footed volley after the Sunderland defence failed to clear a speculative cross from Nani, was sensational.
A New Hope
United have been criticised for recently letting promising youngsters Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba slip through their fingers but in Januzaj they have a much more exciting prospect than both. The boy from Brussels has a bag of tricks at his disposal which includes a wonderful combination of balance, technique, composure and vision – a dazzling mixture that could make him the next superstar at the Theatre of Dreams.
The club has a proud history of teams that play with flair and ambition featuring crowd pleasers, maestros and magicians. With Ronaldo long gone, Scholes retired, Giggs well past his prime, and Rooney’s future unclear, United fans have been wondering where the next new hope was coming from. This summer’s failed attempts to find a creative spark in the transfer window did little to quell the growing anxiety.
Antonio Valencia vacated the number 7 shirt at the end of last season because it apparently weighed too heavily on his shoulders. It’s hardly surprising given that past incumbents include some of the greats of world football in Best, Robson, Cantona, Beckham and Ronaldo. But, although Adnan Januzaj has only featured in a handful of games and is still yet to grow into a man’s body, the famous shirt is already starting to look like a good fit and the United faithful may well have a new hero.