A boy who can do (almost) anything
There is much reason for double celebration for wunderkind Adnan Januzaj this week. The boy turns 19 today amid news that he’s been awarded the much-vaunted Manchester United Player of the Month award, verisimilarly the first of many accolades he’ll accrue during his Old Trafford tenure. What Januzaj represents, first and foremost, is that if a player displays enough restraint to steer clear of (alleged! – Ed) liaisons with the manager’s next of kin, David Moyes will afford youth a chance to prove itself. It’s a fairly straightforward premise; eschew off-field penetration, and you shall be given ample opportunity to penetrate opposition defences. (that’s enough! – Ed)
Reds aplenty grow excitable at the mere mention of Januzaj, with fans asserting that the youngster will become a superstar. There is a sole objection to this assertion; one could already herald him a superstar. And he will be an icon too.
Januzaj exudes that superstar quality even during these embryonic stages of his playing career. In the youngster’s first start for the club versus Sunderland back in October he bagged a brace to overturn a 1-0 deficit. If previous glimpses had informed supporters that someone pretty special was at the club’s disposal, the double provided the requisite confirmation.
And this isn’t the type of special that could tease fans for a solitary season, nutmegging prestigious players such as Luis Figo before fizzling out before observers very eyes. This is the type of special that, barring any career-threatening injury or penchant for extra-curricular debauchery, could go on to become one of the world’s finest.
Without suggesting Januzaj will develop into a better player than Cristiano Ronaldo, a bigger icon than George Best, or exceed Ryan Giggs’ medal haul as a longtime servant of the club, it’s hard not to parallel the kid with the glorious wide men who’ve already plied their trade at the Theatre. Like the aforementioned wide-men Januzaj has that wide boy chutzpah in abundance. Every bit as good as he thinks he is, the youngster will do things on a football field that leave fans marveling at his majesty. It is a hallmark of all the greats.
When considering the grace with which Januzaj manoeuvres his body he is more Best or Giggs than Ronaldo. He floats with the grace of a butterfly, whereas Ronaldo charges with the horsepower of, well, a horse.
The footballing juxtaposition on the flanks between Januzaj and his marker, United-alum Bardsley, is one of the greatest witnessed in recent times, encapsulating finesse versus brutishness on a football field, and manifested itself in the Sunderland player being given an almighty runaround. The performance evoked Danny Wallace’s well-documented soundbite about his left-wing successor, the teenage Giggsy: “I’d have kicked him if I could have caught him.” Or words to that effect.
In the ill-fated second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final, whilst Januzaj was moved to the opposite flank to accommodate Shinji Kagawa on the left-hand side, analytical minds may have still suspected it was an exercise in preservation by Moyesey; the rationale to spare Januzaj an unceremonious kicking.
This also got the cogs cogitating. The Januzaj ditty predominantly rings true – he “can do anything.” Apart from two minor exceptions: he can’t avoid being literally scythed down by graceless defenders, nor can he avoid being metaphorically scythed down by young ladies looking to make a pound out of recounting their piquant-poultry based suppers. The long-gone Anderson would be so proud of his dude.
At this juncture credit is due Nando’s marketing department for opportunely sniffing a P(e)R(i) stunt, and sending a £50 Nando’s gift voucher to Old Trafford, addressed to Januzaj. £50 did seem lavish though since the lad isn’t putting away Andow-sized platters.
In the absence of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie through injury, it did become disconcertingly apparent that Moyes’ side was growing over-reliant on a 19-year-old that has barely played two dozen times for the club. Perhaps even more alarming was that Januzaj himself had started to detect a dearth of alternative viable options surrounding him during the Sunderland semi-final second leg. It prompted the youngster to attempt numerous shots from distance. Januzaj’s precocious gall to shoot-on-sight is admirable, but the underlying motivation remains concerning.
Moyes desperately needed to sign in January to support Januzaj, and the manager thankfully delivered in before the window closed. Not only did United stave off other clubs’ interest by securing Januzaj’s signature on a five-year contract, but United also purchased Juan Mata to complement the kid’s boundless talent.
The thought of Juan and Janu collaborating, merely in terms of creatively merging their names, is enthralling enough for those wordsmiths amongst us. Portmanteaus abound for the dynamic duo; JuAdnan, Juanuzaj. And then one envisages the potential when the pair orchestrates in tandem with a football at its collective feet – it’s certainly a tantalizing prospect to contemplate of a wet and windy Wednesday evening.
And which self-respecting pun artiste isn’t counting down the days till Adnan and Nani start a game together, purely so that when Nani assists Adnan – or vice-versa – they can shamelessly flaunt “Adnani”?!
Happy Birthday, young man.