Adnan Januzaj emerged as one of the rare positives for Manchester United under David Moyes’s calamitous campaign last season. The 19-year-old had an impressive debut season that earned him a place in Belgium’s World Cup squad.
Like Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, this was supposed to be his break-through season, where he would start regularly, win matches for his team, justify his comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo (no matter how absurd it is) and become the poster boy of his club. And yet, here he is, being pushed to the fringes, with life under Louis van Gaal has put a harsh reality check for the winger.
He has yet to start a single game this season, and has managed only 29 minutes of action in his last three matches. The youngster who excelled as a No 10 finds himself muddled in a hotchpotch of positions (has been used as a striker, a playmaker, a left midfielder and a central midfielder); with Louis van Gaal failing to provide any definite direction to his development. His rapid progress has been halted; surprisingly, he even fails to earn any sympathy from his new manager.
“He has to compete with very good players, that’s the reason,” the manager said as quoted by The Times. “You can’t put 15 players in the team.”
Van Gaal has given an early impression that he is ready to blood the youngsters, but at the same time he is under severe pressure to deliver Champions League football this term. Established names are preferred; Januzaj’s development affected.
Being out of Europe, there is already a shortage of games and Van Gaal finding hard to accommodate Januzaj in the squad especially when Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Falcao and Di Maria are all ahead of him in the pecking orders.
The obvious comparisons with Raheem Sterling come here. Liverpool were in a similar position like United last season (with no European games to play for), but Brendan Rodgers took this as an opportunity to groom young Sterling properly. And how well he did! Fast forward 12 months, Sterling is not only a regular for the England national team; but he is arguably the best player in his position and age, in the entire Europe. It’s all down to proper management.
Italian giants Juventus have been said to be monitoring Januzaj’s situation, but there is hardly anything to worry about. He had signed a new five year contract 12 months ago and is considered integral to United’s long term plans. The situation could change, however, should United continue to underestimate the importance of keeping him happy at the club.