By Nathan Thomas.
It was somewhat apt that Manchester United’s pre-season tour, albeit not particularly successful in a results capacity, would see some of the Red’s latest Academy graduates steal the limelight. Since Sir Alex Ferguson announced that he would be ending his illustrious 26 year reign at the helm of Old Trafford, all thoughts have been on the future, both short and long-term.
United’s unsuccessful quest for the ‘marquee’ signing which the owners and the board feel is a necessity, has been as disgruntling for the fans as it has for the United hierarchy. However, the immensely promising form of some United’s young charges has given us plenty to be hopeful about even if the clubs attempts to persuade the cream of Europe’s talent to head to Old Trafford, remains fruitless.
By far the standout performer on the pre-season tour, Adnan Januzaj has proved to be the man who may well go on to be the world class first-teamer which we all hoped Paul Pogba would be. Despite appearing so young that he would not look out of place in a ‘Just William’ style school uniform, Januzaj consistently displays skills beyond his tender years.
Since opting for guaranteed first team football (and cynics would say, guaranteed ££££) at Juventus, Pogba’s departure left, for many fans, a potent feeling of disappointment. I loved Pogba, the finesse and poise in which he controlled the middle of the park, as well as his eye for goal, was something that United have not had since Paul Scholes in his pomp. He would have been assured a spot in the first team had he merely bided his time. However, Ferguson’s decision to plump for central midfield pairing of Rafael and Park (in a key match vs. Blackburn in 2011) suggested that perhaps Pogba’s attitude was not what Ferguson looked for in a United player. Regardless, it is always disappointing to see a youth player with so much potential, fulfil it elsewhere.
The signs from Januzaj, and his camp, are good. He seems unfazed by his new found popularity amongst United’s support and isn’t making flirting glances in the directions of Real Madrid, Barcelona et al. His agent has expressed the boy’s desire to sign a new contract and the hope is that he will continue his progression and become a force in the United midfield, something that is desperately required. Of course, he will take time to develop and if, come the end of the month, United have not managed to add to its squad, Januzaj will not provide the solution to that problem.
Still, this shouldn’t prevent us from watching with interest as he develops, even if he is likely to have more of an impact playing for the U21’s than the first-team. This does not mean that the young Belgian will not feature at all, there seems to be an inherent trust in him to do the business, in a variety of positions. His versatility, being one of his strongest traits, allied to his comfort in using either foot, should see that only outside forces (à la Ravel Morrison) would cause stumbling blocks on his march towards the hallowed turf of Old Trafford. However, sign of any off-field misdemeanours have been non-existent in a lad who is, to all intents and purposes, extremely grounded and focused on his long-term goal.
Sir Alex Ferguson, described him as a ‘beautifully balanced player’ and although comparisons with David Beckham seem a little odd to me, his undoubted quality cannot be questioned. He’s different type of player completely, to Beckham; his ability to manipulate the ball in close quarters is more akin to a Cristiano Ronaldo or Zidane trait. Although he has a long way to go before being mentioned in the same breath as those two.
The raw potential is there though, and new manager David Moyes, much like his Glaswegian predecessor, has tapped into that. In a world dominated by hyper-inflated transfer fees the manager will want to utilise the time and effort that United have put into Januzaj’s development, ensuring that he makes the grade.
Share your thoughts with the Stretford End Arising forum HERE.