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Manchester United: Adnan Januzaj – The Reason To Be Excited

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Adnan Januzaj

Adnan Januzaj is a young, 18-year-old Belgian with much to offer the footballing world. One of Manchester United’s greatest prospects in the current squad, he set their pre-season alight with some dazzling performances and has since impressed on a couple of occasions this year as a substitute. As I write, Januzaj has just been handed his first proper Manchester United start by manager David Moyes against Sunderland, on the left wing. At last, it seems he has a stage that is appropriate for him to display his many talents and act upon the promise he has already shown in the reserve side.

To highlight Januzaj’s abilities yet further, he was awarded his first team squad number, 44, when he was just 17 years old: a rarity among most Premier League clubs to say the least. Last season, he – nearly unanimously – won the coveted Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year award for 2013 as decided by the club’s coaching staff and management. He joins an impressive list of names to have won the award in past seasons, which features the likes of Nicky Butt, John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher and Giuseppe Rossi, all of whom went on to have fruitful and trophy-laden careers at Old Trafford and abroad. All looks very promising at the moment for Adnan, who hails from Brussels, and began his playing career at Anderlecht.

For those unfamiliar with his style of play, Januzaj is a direct left-sided winger who will take on his full back on the outside, twisting and turning with quick feet and rapid changes of direction. He is also adept at coming in from the right hand side on his favoured left foot and getting a shot away on goal as often as he can. On the odd occasion, he has played behind the number nine, or front man, in the United reserves, showing excellent adaptability. From these advanced positions, he contributed towards seven goals from 20 games last season, and has scored once and assisted twice so far already this time round. Let us hope we can see more of him in the coming season.

[It is here where I will stop momentarily. I wrote those three paragraphs before Manchester United’s 2-1 victory against Sunderland and now I pick it up at full time, having seen Januzaj’s two outstanding goals fire his team to victory.]

So then, how hopeful was my last sentence? As it turned out, no hope was necessary – let alone the coming season, how about the very next game?! United face Southampton at home in two weeks’ time, and Adnan Januzaj has surely now earned his starting place on one side of the midfield. He has just single-handedly given his team a much-needed win in the Premier League with two excellent efforts on a day when three points were a must. He delivered when given his chance, and on debut no less. What more can you ask?

Jamie Redknapp and Peter Schmeichel are waxing lyrical about him in the Sky Sports studio and rightly so. Januzaj was absolutely everywhere on the pitch – he drove forward, but also dropped deeper and was confident in taking on players centrally as well as out wide and he was extremely successful in his efforts. He bought into swapping wings with Nani and this contributed to bamboozling the Sunderland fullbacks as they were constantly unsure of where their next opponent would come from. He linked well with the full backs Rafael and Patrice Evra in turn. In summary, a first time viewer would never have known it was Januzaj’s debut. He slotted in effortlessly.

In truth, most of United’s joy across the 90 minutes came from out wide and by putting quality deliveries into the box. Januzaj was the greatest exponent of this and he did look at his most dangerous when running either inside, or outside of, his opposing full back. The one blemish was a booking for what did look like a dive – Januzaj was obviously predicting contact, and it was surprising on the replays that there had been none – and he was rightly booked by referee Chris Foy. But he did not let it faze him in the slightest, as he went on to score his goals; the second of which, in particular, was world class.

Nani had cut inside from the right and played a decent cross in to the box with the outside of his foot, which was only partially cleared by Sunderland’s John O’Shea. Januzaj had held position out wide on the left until the ball had been delivered, at which time he ghosted inside before unleashing a first-time volley with perfect technique that flew into the corner of the next. Slown down by the cameras, it was complete poetry in motion and a goal that the youngster should be very proud of. He had a couple more glimpses of goal before being substituted after 78 minutes to rapturous applause from the away support.

On the whole, it was memorable debut: one that many players will only dream of. He dug his team out of a hole and his manager, fans and team-mates will be very grateful. He helped re-united a faltering Manchester United’s season. Now it is surely a certainty that Januzaj will be around the United first team squad for this season and hopefully years to come too.

So remember the day – 5th October 2013 – that Adnan Januzaj took the Premier League by storm. Remember all that promise and hype I wrote about in the first part of this article? It might have seemed just like aimless hot air. But instead, at the Stadium of Lights on this very day, he just about lived up to it all.