The story of David Moyes’s first few months in charge of Manchester United have seen two Belgian players take centre-stage for contrasting reasons. Marouane Fellaini became his first and only signing in a transfer window that bordered on a shambles, and has since struggled to make a significant impact following his £27 million move from Everton.
However, in the form of an 18 year old winger with no senior appearances prior to this season, Moyes may have stumbled upon the redemptive with Adnan Januzaj.
If Januzaj’s true potential will only be clear in the future, he became United’s saviour on Saturday evening at Sunderland, scoring two goals to cancel out a poor first half showing that saw the champions trail to Craig Gardner’s opener. United had looked lethargic throughout the first period and with the prospect of a third straight defeat looming to heap more pressure on their new coach, the Belgian saw his chance.
After picking up a booking for a silly dive just after the break, the young Belgian duly seized the headlines. He squared the ball to Patrice Evra on the left before receiving it to slot past Kieran Westwood standing helpless in the Sunderland goal.
The ‘keeper was even more helpless six minutes later as John O’Shea’s weak defensive header was watched down on to the teenager’s left boot, before the ball was lashed into the corner of the Sunderland net. It was a display of raw talent and unerring technique that burns a bright future for the young winger.
Moyes had been vindicated for installing faith in the 18 year old he had only seen previously in short cameos against Crystal Palace and Liverpool, handing a first start in a tough-looking trip up to the north east in the midst of poor form. He was duly repaid to leave United in a slightly brighter position going into the international break, and to also leave the Scot glowing on the promise of his young starlet.
“He is a special player,” he said. “I would have started with him three or four weeks ago but for different reasons I didn’t get it to go the way I wanted it to go. He has been that good.”
Moyes’s enthusiasm for the talents of his teenage talent will have to translate quickly to the negotiating table as Januzaj’s current contract runs out at the end of the season. Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea are rumoured to be lurking with United desperate to avoid another Paul Pogba situation, the midfielder they lost to Juventus for free.
Even though Moyes’s inheritance of the reigns from Sir Alex Ferguson hasn’t been the smoothest of transition, he has already done with Januzaj in seven games what his predecessor failed to do with Pogba, hand him a first-team opportunity.
“I gave Wayne Rooney his debut at 16 and Ross Barkley his debut at 16. Adnan is up there with those boys. He is older but he is still very young for a Premier League player. I would have to say that from the boy’s performance, not just his goals, his passing, his control, his movement, he is a very good player”, Moyes said.
As Moyes came away from the Stadium of Light on Saturday night to the relative comfort of the fortnight’s break, he will have further ideas and a different perspective as he attempts to find a consistent winning formula.
Into his more sustained thoughts will go Januzaj, a major candidate for a regular wing spot ahead of the woefully out of form Ashley Young and the inconsistent Antonio Valencia, the Ecuadorian who relinquished his place to the Belgian on Saturday.
Nani and Wilfried Zaha will also be in contention, but Januzaj’s claim has been cemented with his two-goal salvo, as well as his promising 20 minute display against Crystal Palace in which he confidently jinked past opponents with exquisite balance and poise, drawing the free-kick from which Wayne Rooney scored.
It is an enthusiastic talent that has been raised in the youth teams of Anderlecht then nurtured from the age of 16 in Manchester United reserve squad.
“Adnan is still developing but there’s no doubt he’s got talent too. He’s got a good footballing brain and a good touch. We’re trying to get him stronger and fitter and he’s getting to know the Manchester United style of play as well”, said Manchester United’s under-21 coach Warren Joyce.
They are the traits that have seen him become so highly rated in the corridors of Old Trafford and it is something that the new manager has immediately bought into.
“We will do everything we possibly can to keep his feet on the ground. We played him in the reserves last week. He is a very humble boy. He works hard. We know we have got a really exciting talent”, Moyes said on Saturday evening.
At the moment he is reaping his coveted abilities, but he will have to strive to ensure he remains Manchester United’s exciting talent.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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