Adnan Januzaj…remember him? You know, the 20-year-old Belgian wonderkid. Yes, of course you do. Well, he’s back, and ready to answer Louis Van Gaal’s SOS (Save Our Season).
It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for Adnan Januzaj since he broke into the first team squad in 2013. An unused substitute in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game for the club, the youngster became the one major plus point of David Moyes’ ill-fated reign the season following, with some even claiming that he could be the new Cristiano Ronaldo (well, that was me). However, it is fair to say that since Louis Van Gaal took over at the club his progress has been, well, mooted at best.
Used sparingly during Van Gaal’s first season in charge, Januzaj actually began this campaign by starting four of the opening five fixtures, scoring the winner against Aston Villa in the second game of the season. However, after a disappointing 45 minutes against Club Brugge in the Champions League Second Leg Qualifier, LVG decided to let the club’s new number 11 leave on loan and he headed to Germany to join Borussia Dortmund (despite much Premier League interest). Later, Van Gaal admitted that he would have preferred it if Januzaj had stayed in England, hinting that had he joined a ‘lesser club’, his opportunities may have been more frequent. As it turns out, on this occasion, he was right.
It is fair to say that Januzaj’s time in Dortmund has been a disaster. With only three starts, all of which came in the Europa League, United have made a collective decision that recalling the attacker would be the best option, and it could prove to be a timely addition. After all, Januzaj is a favourite amongst the fans having risen through the ranks and it is no secret that the club likes to see ‘one of their own’ go on to achieve success.
Januzaj can be one of those frustrating figures. It is plain to see that he has bags of potential, potential that could see him turn into a truly great player if he is nurtured right. Arguably, LVG halted that progress last season with his reluctance to utilise him. However, it is no secret that attacking options are at an all-time low right now, with Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney the only experienced attackers in the squad. Currently, Juan Mata is the man preferred on the right wing, with Martial on the left and Rooney playing down the middle. Mata, in my humble opinion, is wasted on the right with a lack of pace and a natural instinct that often sees him drift towards the middle. Januzaj, however, on the right wing, coupled with Marital on the left, would offer pace on both flanks.
Currently, United have scored only 24 league goals in 20 games. Januzaj may not score bags of goals (although he can certainly chip in), but he can create. I, for one, applaud the decision to bring him back to the club. I only hope that he is given the opportunity to elevate himself and this weekends game against Sheffield United could be the perfect stepping stone.