February 5th has been a monumental day in the football world. This historic date has marked the birth of some of football’s finest talents: Cesare Maldini, Romanian genius Gheorghe Hagi, ‘kettleneck’ Tevez, Brazilian wonderkid Neymar and one of our greatest players in the iconic number 7 shirt Cristiano Ronaldo were all brought into the world on this date.
Could another undoubted talent be added to that list that oozes class? It is seemingly a date that delivers football stars.
He goes by the name of Adnan Januzaj, a Kosovo-born Belgian. I first saw him in the flesh at the under 21 elite development final at Old Trafford against Tottenham Hotspur in May. Playing as the lone striker that day, he gave their defence all sorts of problems and was unplayable at times. At a mere 18 years old, for him to be trusted to play that role in a major final showed first of all his talent and also the trust and confidence shown in him by the staff at United. He was a cut above the rest, and it seemed apparent that we had a future star on our hands.
Saturday’s routine win over Crystal Palace was marred by controversy, with Ashley Young’s reputation for simulation rearing it’s ugly head once more. On the brighter side, the encouraging debuts of the Belgian duo Januzaj and of course Marouane Fellaini sugar-coated the animosity around the Young incidents.
It is no fluke that two of our best performers in pre-season, Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha, have the traits and talent in abundance to get the fans on the edge of their seats. They both have something that United fans have loved for generations- the uncanny ability to take on a man and go past them. Tricky wingers with that fearless approach with the ball at their feet has been the cornerstone of much of our success over generations- from Duncan Edwards, George Best and the like, to Giggsy and Kanchelskis in the 90s, to Antonio Valencia (well, sort of) and Cristiano Ronaldo, we have been entertained and blessed over the years with cutting edge wing play.
Januzaj looks like he is a very grounded individual, someone who is realising his dream to play football for Manchester United. Speaking after his bright and breezy debut cameo against Palace he said,
“I felt great and shocked because I played for about 25 minutes and that was my first game. I think I did some good things but it is only my debut, so I have to keep doing well on the pitch. I appreciate the very good fans, they gave me a bit of power when I came on the pitch. I am very happy. I hoped to get a goal but I tried to do my best for the team .
“Of course, I want more games to play and I hope I will have another chance to play for the first team. If I have the chance then I will give everything for the club.”
This is one of the main reasons why Adnan will be a huge success for United. I know most United fans bemoan the departure of Paul Pogba, but as Rio Ferdinand wisely put yesterday,
Having all the ability alone is not enough. You need the right attitude & work ethic to go with it.
Pogba had all the talent in the world, but thought he could just waltz into the team without the necessary graft and application. Those in and around Carrington maintain that Adnan puts in the hard yards, that alongside his talent is a winning formula.
The only sticking point is that his contract is believed to expire at the end of this season. David Moyes, addressing the media ahead of tomorrow’s clash against Bayer Leverkusen, said he was confident that Adnan would shortly be putting pen to paper on a bumper 5 year deal up to 2018. Once his signature is secured, it will be great news to secure one of the brightest young talents in English football. Europe’s elite are sniffing in case talks are not encouraging, but it appears that his future is in Manchester.
It is all too easy to draw comparisons to legends past and present, a playing style like Giggsy (that easy ability to glide over the grass and beat his markers by turning him inside and out), sharing the same birthday as Cristiano Ronaldo (one of our greatest ever) and making his professional debut 50 years on from the one and only George Best doing likewise.
But it’s important to not expect fireworks at the click of your finger. Look at Kiko Macheda, 2 goals in his first 2 games, “a star is born” reckoned Andy Gray, today he put pen to paper on a month’s long loan at Championship side Doncaster and is now the pseudo-forgotten man at Old Trafford.
We need Adnan Januzaj to be his own man, much like the Fellaini-Keane comparisons, what is paramount is that these players make their own history, rather than be burdened by unnecessary pressure. Just let the kid play and we’ll reap the rewards for many years.
David Moyes should be applauded by keeping his word from day 1 of honouring the United way from Busby to Ferguson of being the advocates of blooding precocious youth talents and throwing them in at the deep end.
Equally important as managing the expectation is to not hold back the youngsters, there is an unrivaled buzz you get as a Mancunian fan seeing the academy prospects strut their stuff in front of 75,000 expectant supporters, this was obvious from the cheer Adnan got when he came on. He only appeared for 20 odd minutes, but even though it was his first game he provided the impetus to an overall underwhelming performance.
Truth be told, he was just continuing the good work from pre-season and the under 21s, where he has been the shining light again after being named the reserves’ player of the year last season.
It was so rare for Sir Alex to give out ringing endorsements of his youngsters, but the fact he singled out Adnan as a future United superstar speaks volumes of how highly he is regarded at Old Trafford.
Adnan has all the ingredients required to become a United hero.
Just keep doing your thing Adnan and get this contract signed ASAP!