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Much ado about Adnan

July 22, 2016 Tags: Opinion 15 comments
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Remember when Adnan Januzaj was hailed as the next big thing? It feels like an age ago when a coltish 18-year-old made his first full start for Manchester United against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, illuminating the pitch with a match-winning performance. His future looked bright back then. Not so much now.

Januzaj’s emergence was one of the few positives from the wreckage of the David Moyes era. Now the Belgian seems to be drinking at the last chance saloon once again. That he has another chance at Old Trafford owes much to the instability that has engulfed the club post-Sir Alex Ferguson more than anything else. One suspects that had Louis van Gaal remained as manager the Belgian international would have been moved on.

From a purely empirical point of view the drop off in output has been astonishing. In the 2013/14 season, Januzaj’s breakthrough campaign, the youngster started 15 league games and came on as a substitute in a further 12, scoring four times and registering three assists. Since then he has added just another nine full starts for United, with 14 substitute appearances. The only real notable positive contribution being Januzaj’s winner against Aston Villa last season in.

That’s not to mention the ill-fated stint at Borussia Dortmund where he failed to start a single Bundesliga match.

“A part of him was always still in Manchester and we just couldn’t help him cut this umbilical cord,” said Thomas Tuchel, BVB’s coach. “He didn’t wholly embrace Borussia. He always compared everything with how it had been at United.”

Van Gaal stuck the boot in on the Belgian’s less than triumphant return from Germany.

“They are coming to us to ask for a second chance, and Manchester United is a club who takes care of all their players,” said Van Gaal. “I think it’s a very good habit to do that and I believe in the talent of Adnan Januzaj, I have said that also, and I have said already that it would be difficult for him to play matches at Dortmund. Unfortunately I was right.”

Life didn’t get much better for the United attacker. Januzaj gave away the free kick that led to Southampton’s winner at Old Trafford in January and rumours surfaced of a falling out with Van Gaal as the season wound to a close.

To cap off a miserable campaign the one time ‘next big thing’ missed out on an FA Cup final spot and failed to make the Belgium Euro 2016 squad.

Such has been Januzaj’s fall that his name now comes up as an afterthought. While there are plenty of stories about the respective futures of Daley Blind, Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juan Mata, Januzaj has been simultaneously damned and spared after being touched by the hand of anonymity.

"From a purely empirical point of view the drop off in output has been astonishing. In the 2013/14 season the youngster started 15 league games and came on as a substitute in a further 12. Since then he has added just another nine full starts."

In that sense being the forgotten man may be worse and being an unwanted one. The players who are moved on by José Mourinho can at least look to the possibility of playing first team football at their new clubs. Januzaj could be stuck in limbo with another year in the reserves unless he can convince the new United manager that he’s good enough to be around first team squad. It’s not guaranteed given Mourinho typically works with a small squad of 20-22 players.

The scale of his task is daunting though as the list of players in front of Januzaj for an attacking role is long: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Henryk Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard and possibly even Andreas Pereira. Throw into the mix the need for United to get back on a title-challenging footing and it’s easy to see that Januzaj has practically no room for error this summer.

In fairness the 21-year-old has recognized the need to hit the ground running. He looks stronger having put in the hours at the gym over the summer. Since reporting for pre-season training Mourinho has apparently been impressed by the Belgian’s sharpness.

Januzaj can also derive comfort from his new manager’s words when the Portuguese was in charge of Chelsea. Prior to United facing the Blues at Stamford Bridge in 2014, Mourinho lavished praise upon the young forward.

“He is a fantastic player. He is not 18 – he is 25. He is so mature and comfortable. A very good and important player,” said the Portuguese.

There’s still the possibility that Januzaj could be sent out on loan, with Middlesbrough mooted as a possible destination. If he does venture to Teeside it may not necessarily mean the end of his United career as he’ll be under the watchful eye of a Mourinho disciple, Aitor Karanka. If Karanka can crack the Januzaj code then it could be José and United that reap the future rewards.

United’s 2-0 win against Wigan Athletic last weekend marked the start of Januzaj’s attempt to rebuild his Old Trafford career, this time with Mourinho as his mentor. The Portuguese’s preference for operating with specialist players will be a boon for Januzaj. Under Van Gaal he played as a number 10, a winger and even as a wing-back. Playing for Mourinho will at the very least provide Januzaj with the opportunity to stake his claim playing in his strongest position without fear of being shifted around like a chess piece.

A once bright future is in danger of fizzling out and if Januzaj is to realise his potential at Old Trafford this is the season where need needs to prove his worth again.

The question is can Adnan deliver?

15 comments

Denton Davey - July 22, 2016 Reply

Can he deliver ? Nope, not on the evidence of today’s performance.

He’s adrift and “fizzling out”. The only shock with that assessment is that we saw the same thing last season..

Genci - July 22, 2016 Reply

And according to you mister who delivered today Man Utd were playing like low legaue team disregard Januzajs performance Did Mata Young Lingard do good today, No, especially Mata was awfull .

Redzebs - July 22, 2016 Reply

Denton “Dannythelad” talk shite Davey, Jacuzzi would shine in a settled team, we’ve seen it, you’re judging him in a team where Valencia, ahem, sorry, “TV” is captain is comical. Join the forums and give us your banter and stop being a fruit

Denton Davey - July 23, 2016 Reply

So, you think AdnanJ would be a success in a “settled team” – on what evidence ?

Redzebs - July 24, 2016 Reply

On the evidence that anyone taking a contrary opinion to you is usually proved right. What made you stop your slapstick DannyTheLad TC23 TheWayneBoy shit anyway, did you run out of ideas or did you finally realise it was irritating everybody else.

Chiefobdk - July 22, 2016 Reply

januzaj. will improve tremendously..watchout

Chiefobdk - July 22, 2016 Reply

januzaj will improve tremendously

Redsgomarching - July 23, 2016 Reply

Januzaj has shown that he has incredible talent, and– when he puts his nose to the ground– a strong mentality. He has proven his commitment to the club consistently. He is respected by some prominent figures at the club, such as Giggs and Sir Alex; and he has said that he would only ever leave if he felt unwelcome. All of these characteristics demonstrate that he has incredible potential and the willingness to make himself a United great. Truly, he is his own worst enemy. He has trouble settling himself in environments that are outside of his comfort zone, such as BVB or a rattled and weak LVG-era United. However, I am a huge fan of his due to his commitment to the club, and the fact that he thrives in challenging situations– such as a first team call up at only 18. I believe that letting him go will only cause his talent to be wasted at a weaker club; or (in a potentially worse situation for United) we could see him triumph under a manager who is willing to set him up for success. I think that Mourinho’s system could really fit Januzaj well, especially if the youngster can keep working hard, and really dedicate himself to his new manager.

subterranean steve - July 23, 2016 Reply

So, the lad lost his way under the reign of King Louis. Well he’s not the first ‘flair’ player to do that. Too much running with ball and trying to dribble past defenders to satisfy van Gaal’s phoolosophy. Van Gaal never employed specialist wingers, he much preferred wingbacks. He converted both Valencia and Young to that role, but interestingly they could soon both be gone, with Mourinho preferring specialist players.

The move to Dortmund was a mistake, but Januzaj has bags of talent and is still only twenty one, so it would be ridiculous to write him off just yet. If Mourinho is prepared to give him the opportunity in a suitable position, (forget LVG’s ‘square pegs in round holes nonsense) then Januzaj can still succeed at United.

Pint vulger - July 23, 2016 Reply

No

Dano - July 23, 2016 Reply

He appears listless and lazy. It really looks like he has lost his heart for the game. Sell him to Moyes.

Julian - July 23, 2016 Reply

It’s inexplicable really. How someone with so much talent and after such a beginning to his Utd career just seems to be fizzling out is really extraordinary. Attitude may have something to do with it. When the going gets tough, as they say!

The Rookie - July 24, 2016 Reply

So loan move to Sunderland then?

Redzebs - July 24, 2016 Reply

A loan move to somewhere he’ll get lots of game time and get looked after, pity Bruce has packed Hull in, Hughes at Stoke? Newcastle would actually be a good move for him, get confidence back playing in the championship, would probably get into that team easy enough and Benetiz albeit a cunt, wouldn’t be the worst to work under, plus get used to playing in front of big crowds every week.

Duncan - July 31, 2016 Reply

A bit unlucky as a player really. Hyped up by Moyes and crew desperate for some good news, but never fancied by van Gaal from day one. I’ve never been sure what his position is. Not disciplined enough for centre mid, not fast enough for the wing. Could maybe be a languid Berbatov-style forward, tried by van Gaal, but is not going to learn that trade in Man Utds first team with all the competition for places. Personally for me his best position would be central midfield if he could learn the discipline and develop the work rate but his only option if he wants a United career is pick a position and go on loan. Reports abound he will be sold though. Should have taken that £40m reportedly offered by PSG athis peak, now he’ll go for £5m.

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